A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Serving the Public’s Interest

Mary Woolley

Dear Research Advocate:

This week, I joined host Alex Philippidis to discuss the challenges the next President will face on Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News’ Sounds of Science podcast. Not only are there policy decisions to be made, but the President’s transition team must also address more than 4,000 political appointments. Conversations are well underway, but it's not too late to suggest outstanding candidates, including people already in the government, perhaps ready for a new role. I encourage you to toss your own hat in the ring as well if you are hearing a call to public service. (Use this guide to learn more about the transition process and this resource to find out who sits on each transition team.) Working within government means working to achieve something bigger than oneself and, very often, working on things that won't be fully accomplished in four, or even eight, years. Sound familiar? More scientists should step forward! 

In a concise op-ed, Dr. Elizabeth Glover, a neuroscience researcher at the Medical University of South Carolina, explained the importance of robust funding for research. I hope it does the trick in convincing her congressional delegation to sign on to the letter to appropriators authored by Reps. Suzan DelBene (D-WA-01), David McKinley (R-WV-01), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-08), and Peter King (R-NY-02). Research!America sent a letter to House members urging them all to sign on. We received more than the usual number of positive responses, underscoring the pro-research, pro-innovation momentum in Washington.

While the Cures initiative is evidence of (and in fact has helped sustain) this momentum, several groups sent a letter to Democratic leaders in Congress urging them to delay the Cures bill until next year in order to address drug pricing as part of it. This is disturbing for several reasons. Here are two:

  1. It suggests that patients can just wait as the long and incredibly hard work of members of Congress from across the political spectrum and in both Houses of Congress is re -adjudicated by a new Congress. The Cures bill capitalizes on the extraordinary current promise of medical and health research and on major advances in regulatory science. A broad spectrum of individuals, many of them patients, have worked hard on this legislation for almost two years to assure that all the parts of the research and innovation ecosystem can be modernized and empowered to deliver answers faster and save more lives. Putting that potential on hold would be a terrible mistake. 
  2. By laser focusing on drug prices, the letter’s authors perpetuate the false notion that it is reasonable and feasible to address spiraling health care costs in a vacuum, targeting drugs that are an important, but not by any means the only, variable bearing on our health and health care system. Difficult, systemic, thinking and decision-making is ahead for the nation if we want to both save lives and save money. Finding cures for what ails us depends on research and innovation; putting much needed and well-deliberated improvements in place should not be put off another moment. 

Send a message to your representatives now and encourage them to take the Cures Initiative across the finish line.

Thinking systemically about public health in a recent op-ed, Dr. Samuel Stanley, Jr., president of Stony Brook University, discussed preparedness in the face of population health threats. Global infectious disease preparedness calls for vaccine development and surveillance capacity and a well-equipped health care system that serves every community, and more. The need for a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach to combat public health threats, or One Health, is the focus of our first week in a month-long ramp-up to Public Health Thank You Day on Monday November 21, 2016. Interested in partnering with us? Contact Caitlin Cotter (ccotter@researchamerica.org) to join our growing list!

I will be moderating a panel at the APHA Annual Meeting at the Colorado Convention Center on Monday, October 31, 2- 3:30 p.m. MST, about assuring that public health and prevention is a high priority for the next President and Congress. If you happen to be at the meeting, please join us!  That’s Halloween, of course: the National Retail Federation estimates that Americans will spend $8.4 billion for Halloween this year. That’s significantly more than the CDC budget! We can do better.



Mary Woolley

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Luck shouldn't play a role in why I'm alive.
Laurie MacCaskill, a seven-year pancreatic cancer survivor