The Research!America 2021 Virtual Advocacy Awards program featured recognition of several of the 2020 awardees we were unable to salute in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Herbert Pardes, Executive Vice Chairman of Board of Trustees, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, and Research!America board member, introduced the speakers and extended his thanks. “I want to thank you all for your respective contributions to science and health. We’ve never needed you more than now,” he said.
Stephen Rosenfeld, MD, President, Freeport Research Systems, and President, Rosenfeld Heart Foundation, led these remarkable advocates, scientists, and researchers in a discussion intended to allow the audience to get to know the honorees better. Kicking off the round of questions, Dr. Rosenfeld asked Dr. Michael Johns, Professor at School of Medicine and Public Health at Emory University, and recipient of the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy, about the influence of perception of public health in our pandemic response. “Public health too often gets the short end of the stick at the expense of us all,” he responded. He cautioned against a siloed approach to public health: “We’re not seeing a holistic approach. We need to do more to personalize public health and generalize individual health.”
Next, Mary Fogarty McAndrew, Chair of the John E. Fogarty Foundation for Persons with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, and recipient of the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award, spoke about her father’s legacy and what his impression would be of the organizations bearing his name. She shared the nature of her pride in the Fogarty Foundation and the work it is doing to address the needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, especially as they have mobilized to respond to the pandemic. “COVID-19 has taught us that making strategic investments in research, training and pandemic preparedness can save lives and lessen the economic impact of future disease outbreaks,” she said. In closing, she shared that her father would be pleased with the difference the Foundation is making at home and globally.
McAndrew then turned to Dr. Bruce Alberts (recipient of the John Edward Porter Legacy Award, generously supported by Ann Lurie) to ask about next steps for creating a more rational, scientifically based society. “First,” he replied, “it means that scientists have to pay a lot more attention to education, science education.” He added, “We should stress learning objectives that are getting every student to understand the nature of science and how it works and how we reach conclusions.” Education, he said, is a critical starting point for growing a more scientific society; one in which more people can think like scientists.
In closing, Dr. Alberts asked Renée Fleming, world-renowned soprano and Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion Award recipient, about the most exciting development at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience research. Fleming noted the explosion of interest in the area as well as the growing understanding and importance of integrative medicine. She shared that these advancements have led to the realization that “we are whole people, and creative-arts therapies are effective, low-cost, noninvasive, and non-pharmaceutical.” As a non-scientist, Fleming shared that research advocacy “has become an incredible passion of mine, I absolutely love it. I call myself the ‘chief cheerleader and advocate.’”
At the end of the program, Fleming joined NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins, for a heartfelt duet of “Hallelujah.”