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Advice for Future Leaders From the Geoffrey Beene Builders of Science Award Recipients

The Research!America 2021 Virtual Advocacy Awards program featured a discussion with the co-recipients of the 2020 Geoffrey Beene Builders of Science Award in which they shared advice they’ve received and thoughts for the next generation of leaders. Wayne State University President M. Roy Wilson, MD, introduced the three co-recipients:

  • Myron M. Levine, MD, DTPH, Associate Dean for Global Health, Vaccinology & Infectious Diseases, Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, University of Maryland School of Medicine.

  • Gary J. Nabel, MD, PhD, President and CEO, ModeX Therapeutics.

  • Paul A. Offit, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 

Ross Levine, MD, representing the Geoffrey Beene Foundation, led the three vaccinologists in the discussion. Dr. Offit opened, explaining he started out uncertain what career path he would follow, joking, “I didn’t have any discernible skills. I couldn’t act, I couldn’t play musical instruments. So, you know, medical school seemed like a reasonable idea.” He explained how he wished someone had told him early on to “just trust your instincts and do what you enjoy.” Dr. Offit shared that colleagues like Dr. Myron Levine and Dr. Gary Nabel inspired him to follow infectious disease research and modelled how to have fun while working.

Dr. Myron Levine similarly expressed how enjoying his work and incorporating work-life balance in research has been an important lesson learned. “You need to be careful that you don’t overdo it. And the antidote is to learn not only to work hard, but to unwind with equal order,” he said. In offering advice to young scientists he cautioned, “Do not estimate the role of luck in influencing exactly what you accomplish and what you end up doing. And you will have good luck, you will have some bad luck. It’s part of the life experience as well as the research experience.”

Dr. Nabel followed by sharing a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt he has followed throughout his career: “Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground.” He noted that as scientists and researchers, there is a need to get the work done and keep the science moving forward, but it should not come at the cost of creativity. “Those are our stars, that’s our opportunity to impact a broad universe of people in ways that we might not have imagined,” he said. 

In closing the segment, Dr. Ross Levine extended his personal gratitude to the honorees, saying “Thanks to each and every one of you for all you’ve done for the field and your leadership in science broadly and in the vaccine field… You exemplify the ability of science to help human health.”

Event attendees included a group of young-career scientists who were invited thanks to generous support from Pfizer and Regeneron as the Future Innovator Sponsors. The virtual nature of this year’s event allowed Research!America to include students from schools across the country: Weill Cornell Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, University of Georgia, and Baylor College of Medicine, to name a few. 

One of the Future Innovator attendees, Gwendolyn Bogard, Government Relations Associate at AAAS, expressed her enthusiasm for the segment, sharing, “getting to hear such candid and sound advice from accomplished individuals in my field was an inspiration. I took away a lot from the interview with Drs. Nabel, Levine, and Offit. I was grateful for the chance to attend the event.”

Learn more about the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Builders of Science Award honorees and watch a recording of the full 2021 Advocacy Awards program.