Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter: Trust and Tribute

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

Appreciation: As we approach Thanksgiving, please consider two opportunities to recognize public health heroes. 

#PHTYD: Taking a moment to participate in Public Health Thank You Day is a quick way to express thanks to members of the public health workforce. Always held on the Monday before Thanksgiving, PHTYD carries special meaning this year as the public health community faces down a dramatic escalation in the pandemic. Visit and share the PHTYD link for tools you can use to make Monday a true day of appreciation for public health heroes. 

Call for Nominations: Speaking of heroes, nominations are open for four Excellence in Achievement in Public Health awards, a new feature we will unveil during Research!America’s 2021 Advocacy Awards Program. This virtual event on April 14, 2021 will honor the 2020 Awardees we were unable to salute this past March 2020, as well as recognize extraordinary contributions in the ongoing battle against COVID-19. Here’s the nomination form. Hurry! The deadline is December 2, 2020.

Clear Voices: Dr. Reed Tuckson, former commissioner of Public Health for the District of Columbia and emeritus Research!America board member recently penned an opinion piece for Science entitled “The disease of distrust.” COVID-19 has spotlighted the too-long, too-painful reality that health inequity is ubiquitous. Reed argues that trust in the medical community is a key variable. Distrust and the lack of attention paid to those doubts are contributing to deadly racial and ethnic disparities in health and health care, and building trust is essential to bringing about change. 

Another clear voice, former OSTP Director Dr. John Holdren, emphasizes in a recent interview that building trust in and support for science means outreach: “We no longer have the luxury of staying in our laboratories...We have to interact with broader society in ways that communicate what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and why it matters.” It starts with listening. 

Leadership: Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) has taken action to help build vaccine trust by joining a COVID-19 vaccine trial. “My hope,” he said, “is that people will stop criticizing the best scientists in the world who are at the FDA — who by the way are following the science — and instead encourage people to step up and be involved in these trials and to get vaccinated.” 

Commitment: We were thrilled that so many of the 300+ who registered were able to join us this morning for “RNAi: From Nobel Winning Science to Next Generation Treatment.” Former NIH Director Elias Zerhouni (a Research!America board member) and a panel of experts from the private sector, academia, and advocacy took us behind the scenes to gain perspective on what it takes (and what it means) to realize the promise of a major scientific breakthrough. I promise this hour-long discussion is worth every minute of your time. Watch, rewatch, and share the recording.

Congress: Reports this afternoon are that Senate and House leadership staff met today to discuss both an omnibus FY21 spending bill and a COVID-19 relief package. Current funding levels expire on December 11; without action, the government will shut down. If we all speak out, momentum on one spending front can lead to momentum for the other. We will keep you informed of ways to weigh in.

Conversation: Our next alliance member meeting will be with Dr. Alan Peterson, who will discuss PTSD and other mental health threats that, tragically, have emerged as yet another set of risks associated with COVID-19. Register today for the December 3 event at 2 p.m. ET.

Remembrances: Dr. Jay Gershen, a Research!America board member and inspirational advocate for the power of research, died last week. His life of leadership and service has not only enriched the lives of those of us fortunate to know him personally but has propelled medical progress that benefits us all. Your smile, your spark, and your infectious optimism are indelible, Jay. You will always be a source of strength for us.

Also, condolences to the family of Dr. William Brinkley, a former Research!America board member, a prodigious researcher in cell biology, an enormous presence, and an integral force during the era of doubling NIH funding. Bill, you touched so many and your influence continues.

A Final Note: Through human ingenuity, public health expertise, vigorous R&D, and pioneering public-private partnerships, we as a nation and global community will defeat this pandemic. The question is, will we emerge as a nation resigned to future threats or will we resolve to out-innovate them? 

In the coming days, you will receive an email from me exploring what it will take for the U.S. to go bold — building the research & technology capacity to overcome the challenges we face, achieve the economic growth we need, and chart the course to the fundamental societal objectives we share. I hope you will take a few minutes to read the letter and consider making a contribution to support these efforts. Any and all contributions are meaningful and will make an impact. If you’d like to make a gift right now, please follow this link

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.  

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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Funding research gives all of us a better chance of living a healthier life.
Pam Hirata, heart disease survivor