National Health Research Forum 2006

National Health Research Forum 2006

2006 Forum: Science and Health in the 21st Century Top Research Leaders Discuss Challenges, Opportunities

March 21, 2006

National Forum 06 Panel
L-R Elias Zerhouni, MD, Arden Bement, PhD; Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH; Declan Doogan, MD; Helen Darling; The Honorable John Edward Porter; Mary Woolley; Myrl Weinberg, CAE; Carolyn Clancy, MD; John Leonard, MD

Research!America's 2006 National Forum, "Science and Healthin the 21st Century - Leadership Requirements and Public Expectations," broughttogether industry leaders, heads of federal agencies and other stakeholders inresearch and health. Nearly 200 attended the March 21 event, which wasbroadcast live on C-SPAN.

Ralph Cicerone, PhD, president, National Academies ofScience, delivered the keynote, focusing on the report Rising Above theGathering Storm (National Academies Press).

He said, "The dominant question was what actions can and should thefederal government undertake ... to enhance the scientific and technologicalbasis of prosperity and security in the 21st century?" Despite bipartisansupport in Congress for much in the report, Cicerone said "the country reallyhas to be reminded of the opportunities that science and technology and medicalresearch have to offer."

David Gergen, editor-at-large, U.S. News and World Report,moderated the high-level discussion that followed. Of America's ability torespond to circumstances cited in the Gathering Storm, he said, "As I go aroundthe country and talk to the CEOs of major corporations or presidents ofuniversities, what I hear is a growing concern about our capacity to deal withthese issues. And yet we find ourselves with a feeling that maybe this isn'tgaining the traction it deserves."

Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director, Centers for DiseaseControl and Prevention, said, "We've made a very strong spiritual commitment tohealth protection, to health promotion and prevention and, more recently,preparedness. But I think we've really failed to shore up that commitment withthe true scientific and societal investments we need to really make adifference. And we're paying a price for it."

On the downstream impact of failing to reap the benefits ofmedical research advances, Carolyn Clancy, MD, director, Agency for HealthcareResearch and Quality, said, "Too often our health care system fails to deliverthe benefit of science to patients who can benefit," driving health care costshigher and prompting employers to locate elsewhere in the world.

Arden Bement, Jr., PhD, director, National ScienceFoundation, noted that among our nation's many strengths are "our stronguniversities, our strong research infrastructure and also our innovationsystem, which has for many years had the ability to take new concepts and bringthem into the marketplace faster than anyone else." Yet he cautioned that ourleadership in these areas is being challenged by many nations.

John Leonard, MD, vice president, global medical andscientific affairs for Abbott, commented on the growth of industry research andscience jobs outside the U.S. "Corporations are ultimately stateless," he said."It's entirely possible to imagine a future where the bulk of that [R&D]work takes place offshore, carried out by foreign-born scientists."

While competition from other countries is encroaching,"knowledge creation is exquisite in this country and will continue to be so,"said Declan Doogan, MD, senior vice president, Pfizer Global Research andDevelopment.

Representing the perspective of large employers, HelenDarling, president, National Business Group on Health, noted that health carecosts are expected to double to $4 trillion in the next 10 years and that 60%of the liability will fall on the public sector. "If people don't think that'sgoing to change priorities, they haven't been paying attention," she said.

Myrl Weinberg, CAE, president, National Health Council,observed, "To me there is no sense of urgency in the nation. There is nounderstanding of the interrelationships of all of these issues."

Cicerone noted, "We have to get out there and tell thestories ... to reinvigorate the entire sense of excitement and what can bedone-maybe scary stories, too-but we have to get the story out there. I thinkCongress will follow."

Read the transcripts from the National Forum keynotepresentation and panel session.

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