Columbia University’s Nancy Parmalee, Ph.D. was excited to be going on Capitol Hill in February with other PAN advocates to fight for federal biomedical research funding. Granted, it was a tough time in Congress – sequestration was about to kick in – but when your life’s work depends on the federal government funding the National Institutes of Health, which then funds you, you roll up your sleeves and you fight. Nancy is a postdoctoral scientist who works on human genetics and Parkinson’s disease.
Prior to arriving in Washington, Nancy reached out to her colleagues to tell them she was joining the ranks as a Parkinson’s Action Network advocate and told them she’d be their voice in the nation’s capital. On her first day in Washington to attend the PAN Forum prior to going on the Hill, she wrote a powerful blog post -- What am I doing in Washington, DC, and why am I pestering all of you to write letters to your Congress Members?  – and Tweeted a link to the article to her 2,652 followers:
What happened next is nothing short of amazing.
“I ended up with 28 letters from researchers in seven states,” said Parmalee. “I put them all together in a thick packet and delivered a copy of the entire packet to each of the 25 Members of Congress the letters were directed to. When I dropped off the letters in each office, congressional staff spent a few minutes with me so I could explain why federal funding for biomedical research is important. And, because one of my ‘Twitter scientists’ from Missouri had written to both his Senators, that got me a half-hour meeting with Senator Roy Blunt's Chief of Staff, Glen Chambers.”
As Nancy visited each office, she Tweeted where she was, included the phone number of the office, and encouraged people to call that office to support PAN’s efforts. One of her Twitter followers, a scientist from Maine, Karen James, called 15 Senators. Karen also did a segment on Australian National Radio the next day talking about our efforts (at the three-minute mark):
“The life sciences community is very active on Twitter,” said Parmalee. “Part of what I wanted to accomplish was to convince scientists they can be a part of participatory government, and as highly trained professionals, we might actually be influential. It was a really positive experience for me, and I really appreciate PAN giving me the opportunity to get involved to try and make a difference.”
“This was Nancy’s first time working with PAN and we are impressed with her creative thinking, her dedication, and her results,” said PAN CEO Amy Comstock Rick. “Members of Congress need to hear from their constituents on the important issues, and since NIH research dollars are deployed to universities and institutions in all 50 states, researchers and scientists need to educate Members and their staff about the impact these federal dollars have not just on cures, but also on local economies all across America.”
PAN thanks Nancy for her devotion to the cause and for her networking on social media to help educate the research community about the importance of advocacy.
Note: PAN welcomes researchers from all fields in its advocacy program. Securing funding for NIH is critical to finding better treatments and cures for all diseases, not just Parkinson’s. To learn more and to get involved with us, click here: Parkinson’s Action Network – Your Voice .