Tag Archives: mental health

Member Spotlight: University of Southern California School of Social Work

By Marilyn Flynn, dean of USC School of Social Work

FlynnAs one of the nation’s first schools of social work, the USC School of Social Work is widely recognized as a top-tier graduate program that offers rigorous career preparation for academic, policy, and practice leaders and provides an innovative and supportive environment for research on critical social problems.

Researchers at the school are dedicated to exploring the social and behavioral determinants of physical and mental health issues, in addition to translating research findings into real-world strategies to improve the health and well-being of individuals and society. Because medical research is a critical component of this interdisciplinary pursuit, our scientists naturally embrace the mission of Research!America to improve awareness and build public support for research seeking to cure, treat, and prevent physical and mental disorders.

Our Hamovitch Center for Science in the Human Services was the first endowed center for interdisciplinary social work research at any university. A leader in the evidence-based decision-making and practice movement, the center continues to expand with the recruitment of nationally recognized faculty members and newly established research cores and institutes in aging; behavior, health, and society; child development and children’s services; homelessness, housing, and social environment; management, organizations, and policy transformation; military; and serious mental illness. Continue reading →

Advertisements

Celebrating Science

Excerpt of a blog post by Dr. Tom Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health.

(From NIMH blog)

(From NIMH blog)

The Research!America awards dinner is like a lot of DC galas, complete with members of Congress, celebrities, and speeches to honor those who have contributed to a cause.  For Research!America, the cause is biomedical research and this year, as in each of the past 25 years, there were honors bestowed on advocates for cancer and rare diseases.  Kathy Giusti, diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 1998, spoke passionately about the lack of research on this blood cancer and her singular fight to create a registry and clinical trials, leading to new treatments that have extended her own life and the lives of many others well beyond all predictions.  The parents of Sam Berns, an icon for the rare disease progeria, spoke of their son’s commitment to find a cure for this disorder in which children age rapidly and die early.  Sam died last month at age 17, but during his brief life, and partly through his efforts working with the world’s foremost genetics labs, the genetic cause was found and new treatments were developed that will almost certainly extend life for others with this rare mutation (see Sam’s inspirational Ted talk ).

For me, what made this event different from previous years was the recognition of advocates for people with mental illness.  The actress Glenn Close was recognized for co-founding BringChange2Mind, a campaign to reduce negative attitudes toward those with mental illness.  In her eloquent remarks accepting the award, Glenn introduced her sister, Jessie Close, and her nephew, Calen Pick, who each battle serious mental illness.  Jessie has struggled with bipolar disorder and Calen with schizophrenia.

When Glenn invited Jessie and Calen to make a few remarks, the evening really became historic.  Together, they described a journey undertaken with Deborah Levy and her colleagues at McLean Hospital and elsewhere over the past 3 years.   The research team found that Calen and Jessie shared a rare genomic copy number variant resulting in extra copies of the gene for glycine decarboxylase.  This gene encodes the enzyme that degrades glycine, a key modulator of the NMDA receptor, which has been implicated in psychosis.  Having extra copies of this gene, it seemed possible that Jessie and Calen would be deficient in glycine, with less activity of the NMDA receptor.

Read the full post here.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Pope Francis is the Man of the Year; do you know what the Word of the Year is?

Dear Research Advocate:

Here’s a holiday surprise! I am not referring to the budget deal, but to the fact that Merriam-Webster’s 2013 word of the year — determined via the greatest increase in online searches — is “science.” I find this to be refreshing news, providing evidence that interest in science is growing, which in turn is an indication of substantial room for researchers and research advocates to contribute to public understanding and support of science. We appear to have an opportunity ready for the taking to overcome the “invisibility” problem that contributes to holding decision makers back from assigning a higher priority to science.

And speaking of those decision makers, we have a budget deal! While modest at best, it is a starting point for bipartisanship in serving the public’s interest. We can build on this foundation. Please add your voice, as funding is being determined by appropriators. Click here to urge your Members of Congress to support robust funding for NIH, NSF, FDA, CDC and AHRQ. This week, we’ve released our annual Health R&D Investment report, which could provide new context for your messages. The report shows some gains in philanthropy, industry, and voluntary health association support for research but notes woefully inadequate federal funding, especially given what’s at stake for our health and our economy. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Call in Friday morning to help change the national conversation

Dear Research Advocate:

Research!America, in partnership with the American Society of Hematology, released a new poll on Tuesday, revealing strong feelings about the consequences of recent fiscal debacles. A majority (57%) of Americans, across party lines, believe that the government shutdown in October caused significant harm to programs like medical research, defense and education, programs that Americans value. It is not difficult to connect the dots between fiscal dysfunction and the future of our nation: More Americans than ever believe that our nation’s global leadership in science, technology and research will soon be a thing of the past,with 73% saying we will lose global leadership by 2020 — just six years from now. A plurality says China will surpass us by then. This perception is not far off base. China and other countries, including most recently Mexico, are making major commitments to their research and innovation infrastructure. They are determined to drive their economy and contribute to health and prosperity by following what was for years the leadership example set by the U.S.

Last month, following President Enrique Peña Nieto’s leadership, the Mexican Congress increased the budget for the primary national science and technology agency by 20% for 2014 and increased the nation’s overall science budget by 12%. Battelle predicts that China’s dramatic increases in federal research spending have positioned the nation to overtake the U.S. in total R&D investment within a few short years. It’s high time we match the bold visions of Mexico, China and many other nations. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Moneyball

Dear Research Advocate:

Just in time for the World Series, a national campaign to make evidence-based government spending decisions has been announced. Moneyball for Government, a project of Results for America, advocates prioritizing limited taxpayer dollars by investing strategically in what works, eschewing “gut level” instinct for metrics-driven decision-making. Stakeholders in medical and health research sometimes have difficulty measuring or agreeing on metrics that matter; it’s time to work through this challenge so that when stakeholders talk about research accountability — in the current budget conversations or in any context — we can speak with one metric-driven voice to emphasize the returns on research investment in both lives and money saved.

Research!America is working to assure our message is in the forefront of the bipartisan Budget Conference Committee’s deliberations. We have written to the committee expressing the importance of investing in medical and health research to address the national debt and deficit. We urge the committee to eliminate the sequester; it continues to take a toll on our economy and our society, in part by eroding our capacity to innovate in the medical and health fields. Please join us in reaching out to your representatives to share the importance of prioritizing investments in research. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Going Viral as we Face the Next Cliff

Dear Research Advocate,

The two-month reprieve from sequestration agreed to as part of the “deal” to avert the fiscal cliff is a partial victory for all who worked hard to save research, giving us much-needed additional time to make our case.  We need be smart in using that time well,  because the delay was paid for through a combination of new revenue and spending cuts that could further drain the pool of dollars used to fund research. The fact that many conservative members of Congress expressed outrage that the fiscal cliff deal didn’t include larger spending cuts underscores this point. The debt ceiling will need to be raised within the next two months, adding fuel to the fire. And efforts to pass a budget for fiscal year 2013 rather than rely on a full-year continuing resolution throws another variable into the mix.

The bottom line is that the scenario for the next few months leaves science quite vulnerable, as reported in Scientific American, in which Research!America VP Ellie Dehoney is quoted. The palpable uptick in articles and opinion pieces raising awareness about the ongoing threat to research from a wide variety of stakeholders, including the Huffington Post piece by Research!America Board member Dr. Victor Dzau, president and CEO of the Duke University Health System, must continue; in fact we have to go into overdrive. In my last letter, I shared a CBS Evening News segment we worked to arrange about the impact of sequestration – I’m told it has gone viral! Please keep the momentum going by sharing it with your networks.

As you may know, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) has been named chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, which sets funding for NIH, CDC and AHRQ. Rep. Kingston previously chaired the subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and the Food and Drug Administration. He was supportive of increases for FDA despite the budget-cutting pressure that faced the 112th Congress. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL) has been named chairman of the agriculture subcommittee. Rep. Aderholt has demonstrated an interest in combating disease and disability. We look forward to working with these leaders and their Democratic counterparts to secure the resources that research-related agencies need to fulfill their multi-faceted missions.

In the wake of the tragedy in Newtown, the White House is looking for feedback on anti-violence strategies from organizations in the mental health community. The email address is policyideas@ovp.eop.gov. Note that the deadline is January 5. The Cure Alliance for Mental Illness has launched a petition calling on Congress and the president to increase funding for mental illness research. Our community will have an important role to play in ensuring that time does not dilute the urgency behind efforts to reduce violent acts like that in Newtown. Research is undoubtedly part of the answer.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Down to the wire

Dear Research Advocate,

Progress toward a deal to avert the fiscal cliff seems now to have been reversed, with talk today of reintroducing aspects of the Ryan budget — more severe than sequestration. Holidays or not, this is no time to let up on our individual and collective advocacy for research. Reps. Fudge (D-OH) and Stivers (R-OH) are leading a bipartisan sign-on letter, urging Congress to take into account the critical importance of NIH in any deficit reduction plan. Take action and urge your representatives to sign on! For those of you in Ohio, if you would like to thank Reps. Fudge and Stivers for their efforts, you may obtain their contact information here.

In addition to ensuring sufficient federal funding for research, the government must provide a tax and regulatory environment that is pro-research and pro-innovation. Last week, Research!America sent letters to congressional leaders and the president sharing information about significant contraction in the medical device industry that appears to be associated with the looming medical device tax. If our nation’s leaders truly believe that innovation is the path to lasting economic prosperity for our nation, then they must evaluate both funding and policy, including tax policy changes, in that context. Excerpts of the letters were quoted in CQ Healthbeat and POLITICO Pro articles.

Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) died this week; reportedly, his last word was “aloha.” Sen. Inouye’s incomparable leadership and half-century of service to our nation will be sorely missed. As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, he played a vital role in boosting funding for research. He was an ardent advocate of nursing and nursing research, as well as research focused on helping those in military service and our returning veterans.

We look forward to working with Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who will succeed Sen. Inouye as chairman of appropriations. Sen. Mikulski received the Whitehead Award from Research!America last March. She was honored for her long-standing leadership and support for medical research, public health and prevention, regulatory science, and the physical sciences, as well as her support for research as a force for economic competitiveness. She is a champion of women’s health issues and has authored comprehensive legislation to accelerate research on Alzheimer’s disease.

As our nation continues to mourn the tragic shooting in Newtown, CT, I am reminded that research has a role to play in keeping Americans safe through better understanding of how to assure public safety concerning guns, keeping in mind both government and individual responsibilities, and in better understanding mental health challenges. Our public policies should be evidence-based, and when we don’t have the evidence, we need the research to establish it. Research!America extends our deepest sympathies to the families affected by this incident.

It is indeed a time of reflection as to what should be the role of the government in assisting us as individuals — and as a society — in accomplishing our goals and living our values. Our nation and our elected representatives have a challenging time ahead, as does every advocate for research and every patient and caregiver. Let’s not let the year end without stepping up to the challenge, engaging our policy makers and putting research front and center.

All of us at Research!America wish you and yours a joyous holiday season.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley