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An Evening of Inspiration and Celebration

Dear Research Advocate,

Wow- yesterday was a whirlwind of activity! Despite the snow on Tuesday, Research!America’s Annual Meeting of Members and Advocacy Awards Dinner were both well-attended and a roaring success! Thanks to all of you who joined us. The archived link of the annual meeting can be found here and here are photos of the awards dinner. More to come on the day’s events, but business first: the president’s  “skinny budget” was released this morning.

The proposed budget (emphasis on “proposed!”) cuts $15.1B from HHS, $5.8 billion of that from NIH alone. It eliminates the Fogarty Center at NIH, and AHRQ would be subsumed into the Institutes, a mistake on the face of it that is amplified by the fact that NIH would apparently absorb the agency without a budget increase. The budget proposal also reduces the federal government’s financial stake in FDA, cuts the budget line for “Other Agencies” — which includes NSF — by nearly 10%, and desecrates funding for other crucial science priorities as well as public health-relevant foreign assistance. CDC’s fate under the proposal is more difficult to glean, but the budget does propose a standing fund for public health emergencies within HHS and a block grant for state public health preparedness. Read our statement on the budget.

Although this budget proposal acknowledges the importance of evidence-based policymaking, it targets programs based on a lack of evidence, not on evidence of lacking performance. On the bright side, Congress is not likely to adopt this budget in whole or (except around the margins), in part. We believe in our congressional champions for research on both sides of the aisle, and will do everything in our power to reinforce the strategic importance of empowering science, not eviscerating it. Along those lines, please take a moment to contact your congressional delegation on the importance of funding our nation’s research and public health agencies.

In other news, Dr. Scott Gottlieb has been nominated to serve as FDA Commissioner. Read our statement on his nomination.

As for yesterday’s events, we kicked off the annual members meeting with Congressman David McKinley (R-WV), who spoke passionately about research as a unifying national priority that should remain above the political fray. He urged advocates to “connect the dots” between research and the day-to-day lives of Americans, emphasizing the importance of sharing personal stories. Terrific advice from one of our strongest advocates in Congress.

The meeting also featured a panel discussion on lupus that, in keeping with Congressman McKinley’s sage advice, engaged both the hearts and minds of attendees. The meeting closed with moving remarks by Kathy Bates, award-winning actress and LE&RN activist who is determined to step up her advocacy efforts on behalf of the 10 million Americans who have lymphedema and lymphatic diseases.

Last night, more than 500 attendees gathered at our 21st Annual Advocacy Awards Dinner, which featured seven inspiring honorees. Each year, I am impressed with the passion and depth of commitment to advocacy among the honorees as we endeavor to increase research funding and save lives. Our last honoree of the evening was America’s 46th Vice President, Joe Biden. He captivated the audience- you could hear a pin drop- with his vision for the Cancer Moonshot.

In closing, I want to share the news that Research!America Board Chair Congressman John Porter has decided to retire from that role. His keynote address at the Awards Dinner beautifully conveyed his ongoing support for research. Governor Mike Castle has transitioned from Vice Chair to Chair, and Congressman Kweisi Mfume is our new Vice Chair. I cannot begin to list all of the ways John has strengthened Research!America and directly influenced our nation’s commitment to medical and health research. We are grateful that John will continue to be actively involved as Chair Emeritus, urging Congress to work across the aisle to support research for health and science writ large.

Mary Woolley