Faculty, scientists and students at Wayne State University School of Medicine were among 14 women who traveled to Washington, D.C. this summer to meet with U.S. representatives and advocate for science-based policy.
The women are members of the WSU-based Science Policy Network-Detroit, known as SciPol-Detroit. They visited the Capitol for a meeting on June 8-9 to discuss three student-selected issues: federal science funding (American competition law); maternal and perinatal health (Momnibus bill); advocated for the Health Equity and Accountability Act.
The group is a chapter of the National Science Policy Network, an affiliate of the Union of Concerned Scientists, and a registered student organization of Wayne State University.
“I thought the trip to DC was great,” said Dr. Clare Zundel, a member and postdoctoral fellow in the School of Medicine. “On how to effectively communicate my science to legislators and how important it is for them to know the impact voting on bills and packages will have on not only my research and scientific research, but all citizens. , I have learned a lot: those who experience the injustice of the environment.”
Zundel has been with SciPol Detroit for over 18 months and joined shortly after starting in the lab of Dr. Hilary Marusak, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience.
The organization started at the medical school in July 2020 with three students in Dr. Marusak’s lab and has since moved laterally, registering as the main campus student organization and becoming inclusive. She currently serves as a co-consultant with faculty members from other WSU colleges and units. Members include the University of Oakland, Michigan State University, and “anyone who really cares about what’s going on in Detroit.” “Scientists are trained to talk to other scientists in our particular field. I really want to learn.”
Zundel’s fellowship focuses on the effects of air pollution exposure on the brain development and mental health of young people in metropolitan Detroit. “Through my research, I have witnessed the environmental injustice experienced by many Detroiters. I wanted to do more.
She plans to continue her activities with the group. “My goal going forward with this organization is to continue to develop critical policy briefs on environmental health issues within the city of Detroit, such as air pollution, lead exposure, and increased heat exposure,” she added. I was.
This trip was supported by donations from WSU’s Department of Government and Community Affairs, WSU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, WSU’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, and a Research!America microgrant.
SciPol-Detroit worked closely with the government and the Department of Community Affairs to prepare the trip. The group spent months training to speak to lawmakers to deliver their messages in a concise and meaningful way, focusing on relevant policies. They learned how to translate their work as scientists into actionable recommendations and direct “questions” to legislators.
The group met with the offices of five representatives: Rep. John Moorenor, Rep. Rashida Tribe, Rep. Peter Meyer, Rep. Haley Stevens and Rep. Lauren Underwood.
Dr. Lana Glasser has been visiting DC for advocacy work since 2015. During this recent visit, Glasser’s friend and her SciPol colleague in Detroit, Aya Almufti, spoke about her personal story and her research interests in advocating for her health. shared. activity.
“Her message was very powerful and I was really moved by her story. “Her representation as a member of that moment was very important. We truly believe that we are a witness to how our stories and experiences can be used to make our communities better.”
Glasser has been a member of SciPol Detroit since its inception in 2020 and served as a liaison to the National Science Policy Network. She graduated from her WSU Graduate School of Translational Her Neuroscience program in 2022.
“We feel it is absolutely critical that scientists share their research with the public and policy makers, and maintain the public as an active stakeholder in their research,” said Grasser. “This need has become especially prevalent in the context of the pandemic. For example, there were many concerns about the rapid development of vaccines, but this is deeply rooted in the lack of knowledge that mRNA vaccines have actually been developed and tested for over 20 years. I think the disagreement was that nobody is talking about this publicly.We need to keep the public and policy makers involved in our research every step of the way.”
She will leave Wayne State University in the fall to work as a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Mental Health. “But I will take the tools and skills that I got with her SciPol Detroit,” she said.
Victoria Kelly, a sophomore medical student, joined the group a month before the trip after hearing this story from Mark Colibeau, who teaches the elective Medical Political Activities in medical school.
“Sci Pol has allowed me to transform my policy passion into direct advocacy for specific health policies at the local, state and national levels,” said Kelley. “I spoke with Congressman John Moorenaar to seek support for the Health Equity and Accountability Act and used my experience as a medical student at the Robert R. Frank Student-Operated Free Clinic in Detroit. and how this bill would improve health inequalities.I knew it was unlikely that Rep. Moorenaar would support this bill when I attended this meeting However, this experience underscored the importance of connecting with representatives in Congress in hopes of making a difference at home.”
SciPol Detroit is open to anyone interested in science communication and policy. The group plans several events and opportunities this summer and next year, including workshops, panel discussions, community-based internships, and trips to Lansing and Washington, DC. For more information, please visit www.scipoldetroit.org.