Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley tells University at Buffalo School of Medicine Graduates to Engage in Advocacy

Woolley addresses the class of 2013. Photo courtesy of Sandy Kicman, University at Buffalo.

As commencement speaker, Research!America President and CEO  Mary Woolley challenged University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences graduates to step outside of their comfort zone and become advocates for research.

Drawing on her own personal experiences, Woolley told the nearly 150 graduates who received their degrees on May 3 how research has dramatically affected the way in which medicine is practiced—including research that proved smoking was harmful and research that revealed differences in cardiovascular health in men versus women. “It is the very function of research to show us where we’ve been wrong; to upend conventional wisdom and muster the evidence to break new ground” in medicine, Woolley noted. 

She also challenged the newest members of the medical and research communities to not settle for the “comfortable” choice of staying out of the political debate surrounding sequestration and its devastating effects on medical research. She noted that everyone agrees that we need more knowledge and that research is beneficial, even the politicians who have enacted sequestration—10 years of across-the-board spending cuts. But scientists and physicians need to step out of their comfort zone—be it the laboratory, clinic or classroom—and engage in the uncomfortable debate about cuts to research.

“In battle against national decline, which is a battle for your beloved profession, what we need is the passionate advocacy –yes, I mean the POLITICAL advocacy—of the most persuasive members of the population– you, physicians and researchers… We’re uncomfortable engaging the political. We’re uncomfortable speaking out, we’re uncomfortable joining the public debate. So today, I say to you: ‘be UNcomfortable.’ ”

Woolley advised the students who would be brave enough to enter into the political fray that “yes, it will be uncomfortable, at first… Yes, you will do something you are not trained in. But no, it is NOT true that you will not be good at it. I have seen, countless times, a scientist, who was willing to become the voice of research and found that she was very, very good at it.”

To read the entire commencement address, visit our website.

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