“Talk from your heart.” So says longtime U.S. Rep. John Edward Porter, a devoted advocate for medical research, in encouraging scientists to explain the high stakes of their work, face-to-face, to policymakers. Porter, who represented Illinois in Congress for 21 years, shares his wisdom in talks across the country with scientists who typically spend long hours in the lab and may be unfamiliar with how to advocate.
On Friday, Nov. 16, Porter offered insights to UF Health scientists and students in a town hall-style meeting, together with Stephen Sugrue, Ph.D., senior associate dean for research affairs at the UF College of Medicine and acting associate vice president for research at UF Health; David Norton, Ph.D., vice president for research in the UF Office of Research; and Mary Woolley, president of the nonprofit advocacy and education group Research!America, of which Porter is chair emeritus. Research!America’s goal is to elevate medical research to make it a higher national priority.
Facilitated by Todd Golde, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida, the town hall encouraged scientists to think about how to communicate the critical nature of their work and help seek the necessary investments to make medical breakthroughs.
Woolley said it’s vital to put a face on medical research, with surveys showing most Americans can’t name a living scientist. “The most important four words a researcher can say and convey are ‘I work for you,’” she said.