A Weekly Advocacy Message From Mary Woolley: Gun Violence is a Public Health Crisis

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate: 

As we grieve the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, the spectre of more to come is deeply troubling. If there were ever a time for action by our elected officials, surely this is it. Yesterday, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) took to the Senate floor in a nearly 15 hour filibuster to demand action on gun reform, which ended in Republican leadership agreeing to a vote on two pieces of legislation related to gun sales. Senator Murphy was joined by many of his colleagues, including Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), who said that the American Medical Association’s declaration of gun violence as a public health crisis is “historic,” entering their press release into the record. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) voiced his outrage over the CDC’s inability to conduct research, imploring his colleagues: “Let’s give the medical and scientific community the resources they need.”

The House Energy and Commerce Committee marked a major bipartisan success yesterday, with unanimous passage of the mental health bill. Unfortunately, this extraordinary accomplishment was marred by the failure of an amendment offered by Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA-29) that would have authorized the CDC to award grants for gun violence research. There will be more legislation proposed. Research!America has redoubled our commitment to urging Congress to remove barriers to CDC research on gun violence. Please lend your voice, as well. This is not the time to sit on your hands.

Several other key public health measures are on the docket in Congress, including Zika emergency funding, which is currently in conference with Senate and House appropriations leadership as they work to come to a compromise. The House Labor-H Appropriations bill is slated for subcommittee consideration next week. So far, no word on funding levels for NIH, CDC and AHRQ, but we expect funding levels similar to those in the Senate bill. That would mean a robust increase for NIH and underfunding for CDC and AHRQ. Please take a minute, using these suggested messages, to tweet at House Appropriations members and make the case for an outcome that is worthy of the challenges all these agencies face.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has issued a request for information on the state of mental illness research. NIMH is seeking input on research areas, as well as advocacy and outreach efforts. Make sure to submit your response within the next two weeks, as the open-comment period closes Thursday, June 30.

The last presidential primary is officially behind us, and it is no mystery who the presidential nominees will be. In David Nather’s article in STAT, I discussed the importance of hearing more about the nominees’ priorities when it comes to medical and health research. As part of our Campaign for Cures voter education initiative, we are working with the Clinton and Trump campaigns to secure statements regarding their vision for faster medical progress. We are also engaging with the national party platform committees; I have the honor of testifying tomorrow before members of the Democratic Platform Committee. I hope to also have the opportunity to address the Republican Platform Committee.

Last Friday, the renowned researcher, physician, and thought-leader Dr. Atul Gawande delivered Caltech’s commencement address. Dr. Gawande discussed the implications and motivations behind the growing mistrust of science, the dangers of “pseudoscience,” and the need to convey the narrative of ‘good science’ to combat ‘bad science.’ He told the new graduates, “Even more than what you think, how you think matters. The stakes for understanding this could not be higher than they are today, because we are not just battling for what it means to be scientists. We are battling for what it means to be citizens.” An excellent sentiment and wise advice in this time of turmoil and unease.


Mary Woolley


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If concerted, long-term investments in research are not made, America will lose an entire generation of young scientists.
Brenda Canine, PhD; McLaughlin Research Institute, Montana