A weekly advocacy message from Mary Woolley: His legacy: A better future

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate,

Throughout its 26-year history, Research!America has been fortunate to attract extraordinarily gifted and dedicated national leaders to its Board of Directors. One such leader, the Honorable Louis Stokes, passed away on Tuesday. A powerhouse lawyer, founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus, skilled appropriator, and able chair of the House Ethics Committee, Lou was also a stalwart advocate for medical research and promoted efforts to address health disparities; in so many ways, Lou created a better future for all of us. Our fight for medical progress is, and will continue to be, part of his legacy.

Current board member Dr. Herb Pardes wrote a compelling article for Psychiatric News that not only answers critics of progress against mental illness, but also those who question the pace and value of medical research more broadly. In an ideal world, medical progress would be linear, controversy-free and fast-moving. Every dollar invested could be traced directly to a new treatment or cure. We don’t live in an ideal world. We live in a world where no enemy kills or disables more viciously or indiscriminately than disease. Research delivers non-diminishing returns, building on itself as it equips us to fight back against diseases with greater and greater force. The value of that may be difficult to quantify, but it should not be difficult to appreciate...or support.

In a Bloomberg BNA article published recently on next steps for the 21st Century Cures bill, Research!America’s Ellie Dehoney and Ellen Sigal, Chair and Founder of Friends of Cancer Research and former Research!America board member, urged the Senate to include supplemental funding in its “Innovation” legislation. “The biggest component that is absolutely critical will be the funding for NIH and FDA,” Sigal said, warning that without it, the bill would impose counterproductive unfunded mandates on both agencies. As I mentioned last week, when it comes to the Senate innovation bill, content and timing both matter. It is critical that the Senate produce a bill this year. Ask your Senators to champion the cause!

Speaking of advocacy, during a National Press Club event this morning, Research!America’s Suzanne Ffolkes asked former Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum  what he would do as president to increase federal support for medical research and innovation. His response: “I was always a big supporter of the NIH and making sure we focused our resources on where the greatest public health challenges are, and so I hope that will continue.” 

Meanwhile at the Iowa State Fair, Ohio Governor and presidential candidate John Kasich called for doubling the NIH budget, saying “it should be a priority of the government.” Governor Kasich made this comment after he saw a young man in the crowd wearing a purple Alzheimer's awareness t-shirt. Advocacy has impact. Please join us in pressing candidates on the importance of medical progress and science writ large until this topic assumes its rightful place among election year (and every other year) priorities.

Another important advocacy opportunity: Sign on to the NDD Coalition’s letter urging a deal to end the sequestration chokehold. The current budget ends on September 30. Let’s make sure sequestration ends with it.

Last but not least, I hope you will attend our 2015 annual National Health Research Forum on September 10, featuring a stellar lineup of panelists. Budget deal? Innovation legislation? Medical progress as an election year issue? Join us! Register here.


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