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2019 National Health Research Forum

National Health Forum Inspires and Reflects on Power of Science

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Watch the videos of each panel and speaker at the Forumview photos here on Flickr! View the agenda here. See the event recap photoslick.

Closing Remarks from Acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless:

“We need to use science to make actions into solutions,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, Director, U.S. Centers for Disease Control, as part of his opening remarks at Research!America’s Straight Talk: National Health Research Forum. At the Forum, held at the Conrad Washington, D.C. on September 5, 2019, panelists reflected on the challenges and achievements of the past 30 years, as Research!America marked our 30th anniversary and were inspired to take next steps to maximize the power of science and data to improve health.

Dr. Redfield focused on two key challenges: eliminating disease and securing our global health. He emphasized how far the U.S. had come in eliminating diseases, particularly due to the power of vaccines, but reminded the audience that vaccine hesitancy is one of the most serious global health threats in the world. “We have vaccines now that can prevent cancer,” he said, adding, “We have the tools.”

Dr. Redfield also touched on the challenges presented by the current Ebola outbreak, saying, “This is the most complex outbreak the world has seen.” However, he pointed out that we have learned valuable lessons from Ebola – “we don’t have to wait for the perfect solution,” he said, adding that we can use these lessons to help combat other challenges such as the current opioid crisis in the United States. “If we can do meaningful science that has an impact in the DRC,” he emphasized, “we can do it here.”

The first panel of the morning, “Women Researchers Leading Discovery,” was moderated by Dr. Lucinda Maine, Research!America board member and executive vice president and CEO of the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

The all-female lineup included leaders from government, industry, and nonprofits. In a frank and heartfelt discussion, they shared stories of the challenges they had faced as women researchers. “The system has not changed to catch up with changes in workforce,” said Dr. Janine Austin Clayton, director of the NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health. Dr. Erin O’Shea, president of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, agreed, saying, “Leaders must focus on changing the environment of science so people from all different walks of life are in a good position to succeed.”

The panelists agreed on the value of members, allies, and networking for women in research, and on the importance of what Dr. Maine called “career-life integration” for not just women but everyone. Dr. Clayton also brought up the powerful idea of having validated ways to measure culture and climate. The group also agreed that “team science,” and rewarding teamwork, are powerful ways to not only advance equity in the workforce but improve the quality of the research.

The second panel was titled, “Collaboration is Key: Exploring the evolving role of cross-sector partnerships as a catalyst to lifesaving progress.” The panel, moderated by Bloomberg’s Jeannie Baumann, emphasized the importance of understanding organizational culture and leadership in making partnerships work. Lynn O’Connor Vos, president of the Muscular Dystrophy Association, highlighted the theme of how partnerships need to focus on the patient to truly result in better care. Dr. Richard Loomis, chief informatics officer of Elsevier, agreed: “In our experience it’s often necessary to form partnerships to be able to get close to the end user and the patient.” Gopal Khanna, director of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, added, “Cure and care are two sides of the same coin.”

Dr. Chris Austin, director of the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences at NIH, also discussed the importance of learning from failure. “The only true failure is if you don’t learn anything,” he said.

Steve Clemons, editor at large of The Hill, moderated the third panel, entitled, “Then, Now, Imagine.” This panel, inspired by Research!America’s 30th anniversary, agreed that while incredible strides have been made over the past 30 years, “You can’t blame the public for being confused about the scientific discovery system,” as Dr. David Skorton, president and CEO of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said. Tracey Brown, CEO of the American Diabetes Association, concurred, pointing out that not enough people see a connection between science and their own needs and value systems. To drive change and action, she added, “You have to have a connection.”

Brown also brought up the important contribution and potential of real-world data and technology, holding up her phone to show the ease of monitoring her blood sugar. Other panelists agreed and highlighted the potential of other technological advancements such as gene editing and better diagnostic tests.

The fourth panel, “Leveraging Data to Accelerate Medical Progress,” built on the issues of real-world data. Moderated by Research!America Senior Advisor Jenny Luray, the panel explored issues of data security, data ownership, and the importance of connecting data across platforms and networks. PCORI executive director Dr. Joe Selby stated, “Real world data can lead to real-world clinical trials and make them more efficient, and make the results more generalizable.”

The day concluded with remarks from FDA Acting Commissioner Dr. Ned Sharpless. (See full remarks) Trained as an oncologist, Dr. Sharpless spoke frankly about the irony of losing his father to melanoma, just a year before treatments for that form of cancer began to come to the market. But, he said, melanoma is an example of the incredible progress that has been made in cancer treatments. He also brought the focus back to data and how to best make the most of the incredible investments being made to make a difference in the lives of patients. Sharpless also spoke about the challenges he has seen and continues to see at FDA regarding “bad data” – fabricated or poor quality data. “It gives science a bad name,” he said, “and violates the public trust.” But quality data is critical to our hope for the future. “By gathering better quality data we can more effectively make scientific progress, find answers, help more people,” he said.

The National Health Research Forum concluded with a promise of advancing science and health, not through the work of one agency or one business sector, but with collaboration of scientists and others from government, nonprofits, patient advocacy groups, and industry.


  • Janine Austin Clayton, MD – NIH Associate Director for Research on Women’s Health, Director, NIH Office of Research on Women’s Health
  • Jenny Colombo, PharmD – Vice President of Global Patients and Scientific Affairs, Takeda
  • Margaret (Peggy) Hamburg, MD – Foreign Secretary, National Academy of Medicine
  • Lucinda Maine, PhD, RPh – Executive Vice President and CEO, American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
  • Michele Oshman – Director of Federal Advocacy & Alliance Development, Eli Lilly and Company
  • Gwen Nichols, MD – Chief Medical Officer, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
  • Erin O’Shea, PhD – President, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
  • Christopher P. Austin, MD – Director, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, NIH
  • Jeannie Baumann – Reporter, Bloomberg Law
  • Rick A. Bright, PhD – Deputy Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • Gopal Khanna, MBA – Director, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
  • Richard Loomis, MD – Chief Informatics Officer, Elsevier Clinical Solutions
  • Melinda Richter – Global Head of JLABS, Johnson & Johnson Innovation
  • Lynn O’Connor Vos – President & CEO, Muscular Dystrophy Association
  • Tracey D. Brown, MBA, BChE – Chief Executive Officer, American Diabetes Association
  • Steve Clemons – Editor at Large, The Hill
  • Mikael Dolsten, MD, PhD – Chief Scientific Officer and President, Worldwide Research, Development and Medical, Pfizer
  • Gary H. Gibbons, MD – Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • Gary J. Nabel, MD, PhD – Chief Scientific Officer, Global Research and Development, and Head of the North American R&D Hub, Sanofi
  • David Skorton, MD – President and CEO of AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges)
  • Jeff Andrews, MD, FRCSC – Worldwide Medical Director for Women’s Health and Cancer, BD Life Sciences
  • Ned Braunstein, MD – Senior Vice President, Regulatory Affairs, Pharmacovigilance and Risk Management, Regeneron
  • Jenny Luray, MPA – Senior Advisor, Research!America
  • Peter Marks, MD, PhD – Director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research (CBER), Food and Drug Administration
  • Eleanor M. Perfetto, PhD, MS – Executive Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, National Health Council
  • Joe V. Selby, MD, MPH – Executive Director, PCORI
  • Keith Yamamoto, PhD – Professor, Vice Chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, Director, UCSF Precision Medicine

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