Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Leadership, Stewardship, Bipartisanship

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

On the Hill: The odds are increasing that members of the Senate will come together again, as they did with several COVID-19 supplemental spending packages, to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill. It is anticipated the House will follow suit. This is meaningful beyond the clear need to address gaps and frailties in our nation’s infrastructure; it reinforces a too rarely demonstrated truth: if members of Congress are convinced a need is compelling enough, they find a path forward. 

COVID-19 has taken more than 4.19 million lives worldwide. According to the WHO, each year, more than 15 million people between the ages of 30 and 69 die from a non-communicable disease such as cancer or cardiovascular disease. Research uncovers potential answers. Development translates that potential into action. The need for life-saving, R&D-driven medical progress is compelling.

Advocates can ensure Congress meets the life-saving potential encompassed in the House “Labor-H,” Agriculture, and “CJS” appropriations bills, which propose welcome funding increases for NIH, CDC, and AHRQ; FDA; and NSF, respectively. The Labor-H and Agriculture bills passed the House earlier today as part of a seven bill appropriations “minibus.” The timing of the vote for the CJS bill has yet to be announced. Use this editable tweet to ask your Senators to speak out in support of robust funding for these agencies as the appropriations process moves forward. 

A prime example of the enormous life-saving potential inherent in research: Dr. Anthony Fauci is championing a proposal to start the research needed now to ameliorate future outbreaks. He believes we can use the research tools that have been built for COVID-19 to study and plan prototype vaccines against 20 different families of viruses.

ARPA-H: Research!America alliance members have provided significant input on “ARPA-H,” a proposal from President Biden aimed at accelerating the pace of progress against unmet medical needs. Research!America is one of the organizations invited to address an ARPA-H listening session with NIH and OSTP on Wednesday, August 4, 2021. Email Ellie Dehoney if you have a suggested question. We may not be able to pose every question during the session, but we’ll share every question with both agencies.

Social Determinants of Health: COVID-19 has heightened awareness of systemic, non-medical factors contributing to poor health and health disparities.The newly launched Congressional Social Determinants of Health Caucus is a bipartisan effort confronting these challenges. Respond to the request for information (due Sept. 21) to share opportunities and challenges for the group to explore.

Black Maternal Health: Social determinants, including gaps in access to quality health care, have contributed to alarming disparities in black maternal health. Read an opinion piece on how to advocate for black maternal health written by our terrific former Science Policy Intern Leah Franklin.

Alliance Member Meetings:

  • On Wednesday, Jessica Drislane, CEO of OpenScholar LLC, and Jaime S. Rubin, PhD, Vice Chair for Investigator Development & Professor of Medical Sciences (in Medicine) at Columbia University, shared valuable advice on how to identify sources of and secure research grant funding. Watch the discussion

  • Today, Brian Southwell, PhD, Senior Director of the Science in the Public Sphere Program in the Center for Communication Science at RTI International, provided insights into misinformation and disinformation, helping place this phenomenon into historical context. Like yesterday’s program, this one is definitely worth watching (or watching again!).

In Memoriam: Along with the nation, we mourn the passing of former Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY). Last year, we presented Senator Enzi with the 2020 Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy. Throughout his 22-year tenure on the Senate HELP Committee, Senator Enzi forged bipartisan paths to faster medical and public health progress. His record of public service is indelible. 

We also recently lost Dr. Brad Fenwick, who I’m sure many of you knew through his bedrock support for ScienceCounts, the Golden Goose awards, and other initiatives focused on strengthening science appreciation and funding. Brad’s contribution to science-driven societal progress, and our fond memories of him, will endure.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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The capabilities are enormous, a little bit of research can pay off quite a bit in the long run.
Paul D’ Addario, retinitis pigmentosa patient