Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the Confirmation of U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

We applaud the confirmation of Dr. Vivek Murthy as U.S. surgeon general, a visionary thinker who is well-equipped to assume the role of America’s doctor. Throughout his career he has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving public health and unwillingness to accept the status quo: invaluable traits for such challenges as combating Ebola, the obesity epidemic, tobacco-related disease and other complex health issues that confront our nation. His determination to hit the ground running to address health disparities and reduce the stigma of mental health, with a clear understanding of the role of science and innovation in improving health outcomes, is also critically important to advancing public health. We look forward to working with Dr. Murthy to alleviate health threats that impact the health and well-being of all Americans.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: “Congress: Strong letter follows… “

Dear Research Advocate:

So much is troubling our nation – evidenced in protests of recent grand jury decisions and the controversy over release of the Senate’s report on the CIA – that most people probably haven’t noticed or cared that the Congress is delaying and may even abort action on the long overdue funding of the federal fiscal year that began on Oct. 1.  People have grown tired of Congress missing self-imposed deadlines, only to say they can only act in the face of those deadlines, and now they are talking of doing it again.  And thus we are lulled into thinking it doesn’t matter what the Congress does.  But that would be wrong: priority-setting by the Congress plays a major role in determining the economic security and health status of the nation and everyone in it.

Right now, Congress is keeping the nation in limbo, and not just when it comes to funding deadlines. “How low can we go” does seem to be the theme of the appropriations process. If the currently negotiated plan is adopted and signed into law – and that is a big if – the good news is that one-time supplemental funding will be allocated to NIH, CDC and other agencies to work on advancing Ebola-related research and clinical trials. That aside, NIH and CDC would receive razor thin increases compared to FY14, as noted in our statement about the “Cromnibus.” NSF and FDA fare slightly better with increases reaching the level of full percentage points, 2.4 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively. AHRQ is slated to receive a decrease of .08 percent, but, importantly, the agency will at long last be given budget authority, i.e., will not have to rely on passing the hat, so to speak, to other agencies to help fund it. Now Congress must take AHRQ to a higher level of support if we are ever to get our arms around inefficiencies in health care delivery. Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on FY15 Cromnibus Spending Bill

The tiny increases included in the “Cromnibus” bill for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and our nation’s other health research agencies are just that. The underwhelming support for the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Science Foundation and the Food and Drug Administration following years of stagnant funding and budget cuts begs the question – how low can we go, given health threats the likes of which stand to bankrupt the nation?  And the decision to flat-fund the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality does not provide what it takes to reduce the much-complained of inefficiencies in our health care system. The pain and economic drain of one disease alone – Alzheimer’s – is not going to be effectively confronted without stronger investments in research. Every American who wants to see our nation overcome health threats, create jobs and shore up our economy for sustained prosperity must make it clear to the next Congress that it can and must do more, making research and innovation a strategic national priority.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: This just in: Congress busy meeting long-expired deadlines

Dear Research Advocate:

Congress is working to reach agreement to fund the government for FY15. Recall that the federal fiscal year 2015 began on Oct. 1, but that deadline was not met. Instead, a continuing resolution (CR) was enacted to keep the government from shutting down. Missed deadlines and CRs have now been the pattern of many years’ standing, despite rhetoric about the importance of a “return to regular order.” Instead of regular order we have “kick the can down the road,” again and again.

It seems increasingly likely that Congress’ current appropriations negotiations will produce a hybrid omnibus and CR (a “CRomnibus” for fans of linguistic portmanteau!) which includes all the spending bills for federal funding except those that relate to immigration. (Those accounts will be funded solely on a short term basis in order to afford the new 114th Congress an opportunity to re-evaluate immigration-related funding early next year.) Neither an extension of the full CR nor a CRomnibus will improve the dismal status quo for science funding. Please urge your Member of Congress to pass full appropriations legislation for FY15, rather than another standing-in-place CR, by clicking here. Continue reading →

Why support Research!America

In honor of #GivingTuesday, Jayme and Julie talk about their experience working at Research!America to help boost federal support for medical research and innovation.

Jayme Hennenfent , D.V.M., M.S.

JaymepicI was honored to embark on a science policy fellowship at Research!America because I know firsthand how crucial funding is to the discovery process. My alma mater, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is a preeminent research institution, spending over a half a billion dollars on science and technology research annually. However, even powerhouses like this are not immune to the current struggle for project funding support, which I personally observed when I saw world-class researchers dedicating more and more of their time towards the grant application process, and less to scientific discovery. Towards the end of my study there, I became increasingly interested in how policy and science intersect, and in turn, how important a scientific perspective can be in policy development. Research!America brings a wealth of scientific perspective to their fight for progress in medical science, through dedicated leadership and permanent staff, as well as fellows and interns who get the opportunity to learn about the policy process up close. It feels great to work in this environment where they are so passionate about both the policies and the science they support!

Jayme Hennenfent is a Science Policy Fellow at Research!America. She is a 2014 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, holding a doctoral degree in veterinary medicine and a master’s degree in microbiology.

Julie Babyar, R.N., M.P.H

JulieWe all have family, friends and acquaintances that depend on a strong medical research infrastructure to make their future better. In order to ensure a promising future, I strive to understand all aspects of health care in various sectors.

I chose to apply for an internship with Research!America because I believe it to be one of the best organizations for medical research advocacy and policy. Increasing constraints alongside multiple agendas in the field of medical research call for opportunities for a unified voice. Research!America historically and presently represents this voice. It is an organization where the mission statement truly matches both employee and member actions, and thus it is an organization shaped in sincerity. The mentorship and education provided to me has been invaluable. Continue reading →

Get Involved and Give Back with #GivingTuesday

GT LNo doubt you’ve heard of Black Friday and Cyber Monday: two days following Thanksgiving when Americans go holiday shopping in stores and online for the best bargains.  But have you heard of #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to giving back? On Tuesday, Dec. 2, organizations, families, businesses, community centers and students around the world will come together for one common purpose: to use social media to stimulate generosity and giving. Research!America is a partner of #GivingTuesday and throughout the last weeks of 2014, we will be encouraging people to support our mission by making a donation to our organization.

While #GivingTuesday is one day dedicated to encouraging people to make a donation to a cause they care about, Research!America will be using social media throughout the month of December to call people to action: under-investment in research and public health can’t continue! We hope you too will use the hashtags #GivingTuesday and #ReasonsforResearch and link to our donation page during the month of December to help us spread the word.

To view, link to or make a contribution to our donation page, visit www.researchamerica.org/supportourwork.

World AIDS Day 2014: Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation

World AIDS day, commemorated each year on Dec 1, aims to raise awareness about the virus, encourage advocates to redouble efforts to fight the epidemic, and remember those who have died and continue to suffer from the disease.

Photo credit: cdc.gov

Photo credit: cdc.gov

The 2014 World AIDS day theme “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation,” speaks to how combined efforts and collaborations can bring us closer to a cure or vaccine. For example, public and private-sector funded research led to the development of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), which revolutionized the battle against HIV/AIDS according to Research!America’s HIV/AIDS fact sheet.

Medical research has played a critical role in reducing the risk of transmission and has led to new drugs that have transformed HIV/AIDS from a fatal to a chronic illness for millions worldwide. Patients like Maria Davis, professional entertainer and HIV/AIDS advocate, has benefited from advances in HIV/AIDS treatments.

Research!America member, amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS research and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are raising awareness on World AIDS Day by providing up-to-date resources and information describing the human and economic impact of HIV/AIDS. In FY14, U.S. federal funding to combat HIV/AIDS here and abroad and assist those affected by the disease totaled $29.5 billion, but more resources and funding are needed to tackle this global epidemic. Tell Congress that we need more funding for HIV/AIDS research today!

To find out more about the events happening on Dec. 1, visit http://aids.gov/

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Time for Thanks (and) Giving

Dear Research Advocate:

Mark your calendar for two important days next week: First, next Monday, Dec. 1, is World AIDS Day. Check out our updated fact sheet, which provides a snapshot of HIV/AIDS and the transformative impact of HIV/AIDS research.  I especially hope that you will take the time to read the profile of Maria Davis, an individual living with HIV who works to help others with, or at risk of contracting, the disease.

When I think of what I’m thankful for, people like Maria are high on my list.  Which leads me to another reason to express gratitude, this time to the many organizations and individuals who participated in Public Health Thank You Day (PHTYD) on Nov. 24.  Research!America established this day of thanks to commemorate individuals like Maria whose profession or avocation is in the public health arena.  Participation this year was truly remarkable, with more than 750 tweets about #PHTYD (including a tweet from the Acting U.S. Surgeon General!) that reached over 1.7 million Twitter users.

But back to the future: the second key date is Giving Tuesday (Tuesday, Dec. 2). This day, shared on social media using the hashtag #GivingTuesday, serves as a national reminder to make charitable donations to the causes you value.  I hope you will consider making a contribution to Research!America and asking your networks to do the same.  Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the contributions you make in December will be matched one for one, up to $15,000.

Why donate to Research!America? Because every single minute of every single day, Americans are losing loved ones to deadly and disabling diseases that should be part of our past, not our future.  If our nation rallies behind U.S. research & development instead of neglecting it, lethal threats like Alzheimer’s, cancer, multiple sclerosis, post traumatic stress disorder and muscular dystrophy don’t stand a chance.  By engaging the public, partnering with the R&D community, and making enough noise to get the attention of the White House and Congress, we can speed medical progress and save lives. Click here for a testimonial that truly puts this cause into perspective.  And please don’t hesitate to stop by our website: www.researchamerica.org or contact Carol Kennedy at ckennedy@researchamerica.org or 703-739-2577 for more information on our work.

I hope you’re able to spend a few well-deserved days off this week with loved ones. A Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours,

Mary Woolley

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Alison Chiaramonte

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day, we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day. Our fifth professional today: Alison Chiaramonte, M.P.H., candidate at the Milken Institute of Public Health, George Washington University

alisonWhat drew you to a career in public health?

After college, I worked for a few years in IT consulting and while I enjoyed my colleagues and grew professionally in a great work environment, I did not feel passionate about the subject matter. I started exploring my personal interests, wondering if it would actually be possible to turn them into a career. I started to define my interests, which ranged from resource conservation and alternative energies to environmental health risks and chronic disease prevention. A friend encouraged me to look at various graduate programs and I felt a connection to GW’s public health program. I saw what the program graduates were doing and realized I could pursue a career that allowed me to express and practice my interests.

What has been the most rewarding component of your current program?

So far, it has been most rewarding to be in class or studying and feel a personal connection to a lot of the subject matter. I think to myself, “That’s what I want to know more about!” or “That’s what I want to dedicate my career to!” I didn’t realize, for example, that I could one day specialize in environmental risk factors for certain kinds of cancer without becoming an oncologist or other medical professional that did not speak to me. My program has shown me that not only is there a niche for me in public health to pursue my passions but that there are various niches I could pursue. It is also rewarding to know that I am building a career that will enable me to give back.  Continue reading →

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Dinorah Lissette Calles

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day, we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day. Our fourth professional today: Dinorah Lissette Calles, Ph.D., M.P.H., lieutenant at the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) and epidemic intelligence service (EIS) officer (Class of 2013) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assigned to North Dakota.

CallesDLWhat drew you to a career in public health?

I love the interdisciplinarity of public health. As an epidemiologist, understanding culture, values, beliefs and population behavior is fundamental to the understanding of multilevel determinants of health and knowing what information to gather, how to gather it and how to process and disseminate it. In my research to date, I have drawn from disciplines such as anthropology, history, psychology and education studies to apply appropriate field research and analytical methodologies. While epidemiology is of course rigorous and quantitative in methods, it also calls for a measure of creativity in design and application of methodology, rendering it a fascinating discipline. The service aspect of public health is also incredibly rewarding. At the end of the day, knowing that one’s work has the potential for impacting a community’s or population’s well-being is a tremendous privilege.

What has been the most rewarding component of your current position as an EIS officer?

An EIS assignment to a state health department allows for work in a broad range of health events, and having the opportunity to serve in diverse settings and in rich collaborations at all levels of public health – local, state, tribal, federal and international – has been nothing short of amazing. In my first year, I responded to a large healthcare — associated outbreak, coordinated a large multi-agency health screening event in an American Indian reservation, assisted in a state-level evaluation of a vaccine-preventable disease, worked in partnership with a large county to interview Hispanic community members about health beliefs and behaviors, among other projects. That my work has informed public health practice at the local and state level is humbling. Continue reading →

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Julie Babyar

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day, we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day. Our third  professional today is Julie Babyar, R.N., M.P.H., a science policy intern at Research!America.

What drew you to a career in public health?

JulieWhen I started college, I originally intended to follow an animal sciences path. I took a population health class and soon decided to study nursing. From there, I felt a very natural instinct and draw to public health. In public health, you have an opportunity to make a difference by problem solving for communities on a large scale as well as for the individual community member. Looking back, I was raised and grew up with a strong sense of community, so it’s a natural fit.

What do you enjoy most about your current position as an early career public health professional?

The position I have now is one of the most rewarding I’ve had. As an intern, I’m given so many opportunities to learn and connect with partners and stakeholders in medical research. I love understanding and shaping policy and advocacy for health, and my colleagues provide me with mentorship every day. Public trust is just as important as trust within the medical community for health policy, and great communication builds that for any organization. Having experience in multiple health sectors allows me to share my perspective as well. Truly, connecting and building relationships is my favorite part of the job. As a society, we don’t always agree on health issues and policies. Relationships help us to understand, compromise and build together, and that’s what I love about this job and this organization. Continue reading →

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Andrew Hennenfent

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day. Our second  professional today is Andrew Hennenfent, D.V.M., M.P.H., a CDC/CSTE applied epidemiology fellow at the District of Columbia Department of Health.

What drew you to a career in public health?

AndrewAfter being accepted to veterinary school during my senior year of college, I attended a presentation given by the director of the DVM/MPH joint degree program at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine which centered on the critical role that veterinarians play in public health.  During the presentation, the speaker described the unique perspective veterinarians contribute to public health through their understanding of herd health dynamics and the pathogenesis of current and emerging zoonotic diseases. Growing up on a multigenerational family farm in western Illinois, I had already gained firsthand knowledge of these health issues and liked the idea of integrating my production animal background and future veterinary training into the field of public health with the ability to someday address health issues that have broad impacts on multiple species.

What do you enjoy most about your current position as an early career public health professional?

As a newly appointed CDC/CSTE Applied Epidemiology Fellow in infectious disease at the District of Columbia Department of Health, I enjoy the daily challenge of dealing with both animal and human based health concerns. Working at a local health department gives me the opportunity to interact with the general public on a regular basis through both disease investigations and wellness initiatives that address challenges as they arise. Since all response starts locally, it is rewarding to see the programs and projects I contribute to directly impact and improve the lives of the intended community groups. Continue reading →

Early-Career Public Health Professional: Sasha McGee

In honor of Public Health Thank You Day we will be highlighting public health professionals throughout the day today.  Our first professional is Sasha McGee, Ph.D., M.P.H., epidemic intelligence service officer at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assigned to the District of Columbia Department of Health.

SashaWhat drew you to a career in public health?

My earliest educational and research experiences were guided by my passion to pursue a career in which my work would contribute to the improvement of health. After completing my doctoral training, I knew that I did not just want to conduct research but to participate in the translation of data into interventions that would benefit large populations. The field of public health seemed to be the perfect choice in terms of having the opportunity to both investigate and address health challenges.

What do you enjoy most about your current position as an early career public health professional?

What I enjoy most about my current position is the opportunity to participate in projects on a wide range of topics — I am always learning something new and no day is ever the same. I also appreciate the collaborative nature of my work. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Leading with bipartisanship; energized by inspiring stories

Dear Research Advocate:

The goal of the 21st Century Cures Initiative, launched last May by House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI-06) and Ranking Member of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Diana DeGette (D-CO-01), is passage of legislation in 2015 that will eliminate obstacles to faster medical progress. (Representatives Upton and DeGette spoke to a packed audience at FasterCures “Partnering for Cures” meeting in New York on Monday, explaining their goals. Check this out, being sure to listen to the personal story of determination told by Sonia Vallabh; she and her husband have changed their careers to help find a cure for fatal familial insomnia.)

It is exciting to see, for the first time in years, a bipartisan health-related effort gathering strength and support. All of us, whether we are patients or advocates or both, stand to benefit. Research!America has been working with 21st Century Cures to promote strategies that will help speed progress at every stage of the research and development continuum. The most recent example is urging Representatives Upton and DeGette to incorporate Congressman Larry Bucshon’s Research and Development Efficiency Act in their planned legislation. H.R. 5056 would streamline the unjustifiably onerous layers of regulation imposed on federally funded research, freeing up dollars and time to allow research to move faster. Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on the New Chair of the House Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee

November 20, 2014

Congressman Tom Cole’s leadership on the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee will help shape our ability to sustain and accelerate medical innovation as we confront health crises here and abroad. As a steward of the federal funding that lays the noncommercial foundation for private sector medical progress, Congressman Cole will play a pivotal role in determining whether our nation conquers Alzheimer’s, childhood cancer, Ebola and other insidious health threats. We commend his efforts to ensure quality health care for veterans, remove barriers to innovation through the repeal of the medical device tax and advance other health and research-related initiatives. We look forward to working with the congressman to strengthen our nation’s research infrastructure for the millions of patients awaiting new therapies and cures.

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