Home » Mary Woolley's Weekly Letter » Honoring Leaders, Encouraging Action

Honoring Leaders, Encouraging Action

Dear Research Advocate,

“Medical research should never be partisan. It should never get caught up in culture wars or tribal disagreements,” said Francis Collins, MD, PhD, in an interview this week. As Dr. Collins prepares to complete his tenure as NIH Director, he’s sharing lessons learned and advice for the future on issues including science communication and health inequities. There’s another important conversation with Dr. Collins in JAMA.

We are deeply honored that Dr. Collins will join us at our 2022 Advocacy Awards program on March 16 to receive the John Edward Porter Legacy Award, generously supported by Ann Lurie.

It was announced today that Lawrence A. Tabak, DDS, PhD, a highly regarded leader who currently serves as the Principal Deputy Director of NIH, will become the Institutes’  acting director after Dr. Collins leaves that role on December 19. Read our statement.

On the Hill: With a host of legislative priorities on Congress’ plate, including raising the debt limit and completing work on the National Defense Authorization Act, we must speak up even louder in support of medical research and public health priorities.

It has now been 69 days since Congress and the Administration missed their first deadline to pass FY22 spending bills. Unless we convince Congress to act, the current continuing resolution locks in last year’s funding levels through February 18. Needed investment in medical progress and other priorities are in limbo; our federal leaders can and must do better.

Last week, we encouraged you to write Letters to the Editor about the urgency of finalizing spending levels for FY22. This week we encourage you to write op-eds to media outlets and post pieces on your own websites and social channels. One example is a new blog on the crucial role of pandemic preparedness written by a Research!America intern.

A bit of welcome news: the Senate HELP Committee announced it will hold a hearing  on December 14 on Dr. Robert Califf’s nomination as FDA Commissioner, signaling the possibility of a confirmation vote before the end of the year. We fully support Dr. Califf’s nomination and are confident he will be confirmed to fill this critically important role.

COVID-19 and Opioids: One of the many health challenges exacerbated by COVID-19 is the opioid epidemic. CDC data show drug overdose deaths from opioids rose 38% in the year ending March 2021 — 12 months after the first pandemic lockdowns in the U.S. We hope you will read and share our new blog post, “The Epidemic Within the Pandemic,” and fact sheet on opioid use and COVID-19. The statistics and their implications are truly jarring, and are powerful reasons why Congress should step up and pass the FY22 budget ASAP.

Driving Progress on Diversity in STEM: This week, Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) launched the bipartisan Women in STEM Caucus with the focus of advancing the participation of women, especially from minority groups, in STEM careers. Recent data from the US Census highlights the vast underrepresentation of women in the STEM workforce. Use this editable email to urge your Senators to join this new caucus.

Addressing Information Disorder: I hope you’ll take time to review the final report of the Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder, co-chaired by cybersecurity expert Chris Krebs. The report calls for research to better understand the causes of, challenges around, and solutions to the growing epidemic of misinformation, disinformation, and malinformation. Aspen’s Information Disorder Prize Competition will fund projects that address the Commission’s recommendations.

Enhancing Public Engagement: As readers of this letter know, scientists have a crucial role to play in combatting misinformation, in part through public engagement. Today the Kavli Foundation announced the launch of two Kavli Centers for Ethics, Science, and the Public. The Centers, located at UC Berkeley and the University of Cambridge, will “train scientists to be aware of the ethical and societal impacts of scientific discoveries and to engage the public in early and intentional discussions.”

Special Discussion: This week two honorees for the Outstanding Achievement in Public Health Awards, generously supported by Johnson & Johnson, joined us for a virtual discussion: Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, recipient of the 2022 Meeting the Moment for Public Health Award, and Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, recipient of the Building the Foundation Award. Drs. Jha and Murray touched on the importance of science communication, the dangers of disinformation, and the new Omicron variant. Watch the discussion to catch all the great insights from two of the nation’s foremost leaders working to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upcoming Alliance Member Meeting: Join us on Wednesday, December 15, at 12:30 p.m. ET for a conversation with Lee Fleisher, MD, CMS Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality. Dr. Fleisher will discuss how data and research are used to inform policies at CMS. Pete Kirkham from Red Maple Consulting and Research!America’s Ellie Dehoney will also take a few minutes to bring attendees up to date on current developments on Capitol Hill.

Support Important Conversations: Hosting conversations around pressing medical and public health issues is an important part of what we do. Please help us drive advocacy for medical, public health, and scientific progress that benefits all by making a gift to support Research!America.

Stay well, stay safe, and stay connected.


Mary Woolley