Sunday, January 20, 2013

Support Biomedical Research!

Time to hold on for dear life: we have reached the fiscal cliff! Being a physician scientist in training, one of my biggest concerns is the 8.4% cut to National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding of biomedical research. Every single time a doctor evaluates a patient or prescribes a therapy for a serious illness, federally funded biomedical research plays a key role in the process. We need to continue to make progress in learning about and treating incurable diseases, and this cut in NIH funding severely undermines such progress. Currently, about 90% of research proposals made by scientists and physicians are rejected for funding by the NIH due to resource limitations. This is an unhealthy rate and will only worsen if the NIH budget is further reduced.

I’m probably preaching to the choir; I would hope that everyone knows how detrimental this is for research. However, what people may not realize is what it can do for young people in training to become scientists or physician scientists. We need to be concerned with how this funding drop will affect our future, not just the present research. Looking down the road, this low level of funding and insanely competitive grant applications will inhibit young people from entering careers in biomedical research.

Another possible ramification of decreased biomedical research funding is that it accidental discoveries may become less likely. Some of our greatest advancements have been made by accident, namely Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin. Only grants that are extremely well thought out and have very clear, logical hypotheses get funded. This leaves little/no room for riskier experiments where there is no clear hypothesis.

So what do we do about it? Well we cannot just sit back and wait for it to happen. You can write letters to your Senators and Representatives. You can write letters to the editor of newspapers or magazines. We must let our voice be heard so that America’s future biomedical research is not jeopardized.

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