A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Determination, optimism and hard work ahead

Dear Research Advocate:

The President’s FY16 budget was released this week. It makes the case for, and does its math on the basis of, the end of sequestration.  Hallelujah! If Congress agrees to discard this monster that no one wanted to begin with, perhaps the executive and legislative branches can work to position our nation for a better future. That most fundamental of goals has been neglected for far too long and it is now time to make strategic investments for our nation.

In that context, we’re excited about the level of interest in medical progress that has in many ways defined the early days of the 114th Congress. There are several bills in play that would recalibrate research and development policies and research funding to achieve a pace that meets the needs of patients and secures the public’s safety. We believe that NIH, CDC, AHRQ, FDA, and NSF should be the focus of a major strategic investment this year so that we can accelerate medical progress, so that we can put the brakes on Alzheimer’s, bolster our anti-infectious disease arsenal, and meet the other massive health/economic/fiscal/national security challenges before us. Read more here.

Dr. Margaret Hamburg has announced that she will be stepping down from her post as FDA Commissioner. She is an exemplary leader who has fulfilled a crucial role for the nation with characteristic vision, dedication and skill. More here.

And speaking of FDA, now is the time to share your input on the 21st Century Cures initiative. I have had the privilege of weighing in with Reps. Upton (R-MI) and DeGette (D-CO) and their staff members, and I encourage you to do the same.  Join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #Cures2015 and send formal comments to cures@mail.house.gov.  Do it now:  a new draft could come out as soon as two weeks from today. As I mentioned last week, Senator Alexander (R-TN) has launched an effort similar to 21st Century Cures. When details become available, Research!America will update you on ways to contribute to the Senate process.

As you strategize what your contributions to the various initiatives, working groups and legislative proposals will be, you might find it helpful to huddle with other organizations in the field. We’re planning a stakeholder strategy meeting for Research!America members, hosted at the offices of the Society for Neuroscience. Join us next Wednesday Feb. 11 at 1pm.  Space is limited, so please reserve a seat by e-mailing Jordan Gates at jgates@researchamerica.org.

Exciting news Tuesday from Research!America board member and former Representative Patrick J. Kennedy and former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher. Their partnership to address the state of mental health and addiction in this country and to achieve health equity is now formalized as The Kennedy Center for Mental Health Policy and Research within the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta. None of us should settle for the status quo approach when it comes to achieving mental health. It was noted that the military sees mental health explicitly as a “force multiplier;” giving  our nation a competitive edge. I see the Kennedy-Satcher partnership as a force multiplier, too – there are no two people more passionate and none with a stronger track record as a leader for mental health.  See key findings from a poll they commissioned here.

Mark your calendars, tomorrow (Friday Feb. 6) is an important day! It is “Give Kids a Smile Day” which promotes the importance of oral health and provides dental care to underserved children. In support of this effort, we are releasing our new Children’s Dental Health Research fact sheet. And speaking of David Satcher, he made dental health one of the foci of his tenure as Surgeon General. It was Dr. Satcher who called oral disease the “silent epidemic.” It is truly important to understand that children’s dental health is not a luxury; it is core to their health and wellbeing.

Tomorrow is also the last call for scientists at the post-graduate level and above to submit applications for “Connecting the Dots: Effectively Communicating Science to Non-Scientists,” a two-day program that we are hosting in partnership with the George Washington University School of Media and Public Affairs. Submit your application here by Friday.


Mary Woolley

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