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School of Medicine Faculty, Students and Staff Rally for Medical Research

Monday, April 08, 2013

 A large crowd of faculty, students and staff gathered to show their support.

Hundreds of researchers, physicians, students, fellows and staff gathered in University Plaza on Monday, April 8, to show their support for the national Rally for Medical Research, which took place in DC that afternoon. Both rallies were a unified call to action to raise awareness about the critical need for an increased investment in the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The recent government sequester has further eroded funding to this important institution, which fights daily to improve health, spur more progress, inspire more hope and save more lives by funding the visionary science that brings tomorrow's cures.

“The rallies being held here and in Washington, DC, and at medical schools across the country are bringing together hundreds of research institutions and thousands of scientists and physicians across the country who share the common cause of supporting biomedical research,” said Richard Pierson, MD, Professor, Department of Surgery and Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Interim Director for Research Affairs. “We call on our nation's policy leaders to invest in our future by committing to an increased investment in the NIH and medical research in general. This investment, which supports our basic research scientists, our physician-scientists, our clinical investigators, our educational vision and our world-class research institution, must be restored to its rightful place as a top national priority. It is, quite simply, the right thing to do.”

It’s the right thing morally as well as financially. Recent federal budget cuts as part of sequestration slashed the NIH budget by $1.5 billion in the first year alone. This reduction has come at the end of a decade that has seen the NIH budget fall by nearly 20 percent after inflation.

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“Biomedical research is an economic engine in the State of Maryland and in the nation, but execution of this research is heavily dependent on federal support,” said E. Albert Reece, E. Albert Reece, MD, PhD, MBA, vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “The Biomedical Research enterprise is the best investment our country can make. The return on this investment accrues directly to the health and well-being of our citizens, and to the local and national economies. It is truly a bargain!”

State and Federal Support

The rally was supported by state and federal officials, including Maryland Health Secretary Joshua Sharfstein, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, and Congressman Dutch Rupersberger (pictured left), who voiced his support on his website. "Medical research is our best hope for finding cures, improving treatments and gaining a better understanding of the complex causes of diseases that affect millions of Americans. But here in Maryland, it’s also essential to our economy. The growing life sciences sector has generated one third of all job gains over the past decade and is now supporting more than $9.6 billion in salaries for Maryland families," says Congressman Ruppersberger.

Rally participants donned their lab coats in a show of solidarity to all in their profession. They also carried a variety of signs proclaiming their support for NIH funding, which is so integral to the work many of them are doing. “Our country is making a terrible mistake,” declared Curt Civin, MD, Professor, Departments of Pediatrics and Physiology; Associate Dean for Research; and Director, Center for Stem Cell Biology & Regenerative Medicine. “The sequester cuts, never meant to happen, have now been made. These senseless, across-the-board cuts will hurt our country immediately. And unless we change things, the sequester cuts will continue to hobble our health and our economy for decades.”

All of the speakers at the Baltimore event shared Dr. Civin's concern that cuts to funding will lead young scientists and physicians to abandon research or take their innovations to countries that offer more support for science. “Here in America, we train and recruit the best scientists in the world, but training scientists takes time and money, and we need that money from the NIH. We are at risk of losing an entire generation of researchers,” said Margaret McCarthy, PhD, Professor and Chair, Department of Pharmacology. “It takes years to become an independent scientists and enormous determination and grit and discipline to stay the course in science. Now our young scientists are becoming disappointed, disillusioned and disaffected, and they are leaving in droves.”

For more information about the Rally for Medical Research, visit www.rallyformedicalresearch.org. Also visit www.researchmeanshope.org to follow the Research Means Hope campaign of the Association of American Medical Colleges.

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 Speakers Dean Reece, Dr. Civin, Dr. Alan Shuldiner, Dr. McCarthy, Dr. Stephen Bartlett and Dr. Pierson.

 Dean Reece and Jeff Rivest of the Medical Center.

 Many students were among those in the crowd.

 Concerned scientists of all ages rallied in support of research funding.

 The crowd filled the plaza and the surrounding stairs.

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