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Finding Ways to Make Science Matter to Everyone

Amid our response to the pandemic, Jackie Turner says, we must maintain concern and compassion for the disenfranchised

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What You Need To Know

Second in a series: As we move forward from one of the most challenging years in memory, the role science plays in our lives and the health of our planet is more important than ever. From studying the tiniest organisms on Earth to celestial bodies in space, scientists continue to push the boundaries of discovery. Given the abundance of brilliant minds at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, we are launching a new series for the CU Anschutz newsroom. In it, our own scientists will contribute their thoughts on “Why Science Matters.” If you would like to contribute to the series, please reach out to Chris Casey, director of digital storytelling, at christopher.casey@cuanschutz.edu.

I love tossing around crazy scientific ideas – things that might be nearly impossible … or actually are impossible.

This scientific discourse has become an important cornerstone of my academic development as an MD/PhD student. While the vast majority of these ideas do not come to fruition, I derive a lot out of the practice and the few ideas that do develop. I can watch certain ideas grow and change as they eventually become important. Ideas that are important characteristically have relevance and foreseeable applicability.

Recently, I have been asking myself a lot of questions. How can I make my science important for everyone? How can we as a scientific community use this last year as an inflection point to better address current problems and future issues as they arise? What are the steps we can take to better serve our global community members during this pandemic and in the future?

Address the laid-bare inequities

Although there is no panacea for all of these longstanding questions and problems, it behooves us to not only tackle COVID-19 but to also begin to address the inequities that have been laid bare. How can the scientific community use this momentum to set a new precedent for science to be important and accessible to the entire spectrum of people?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jackie Turner is pursuing her MD/PhD at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in the laboratory of Raul Torres. She is currently in the Pharmacology Graduate Program studying the role of bioactive lipids in modulating T cell metabolism and immunity. Turner received her undergraduate bachelor’s degree at CU Boulder in biochemistry and integrative physiology. She is also a graduate Hertz Fellow and Bill and Melinda Gates Summer Associate.


Future Physician-Scientist Aims to Contribute to History of Advancements

As we build the necessary tools to respond to the pandemic, we must maintain concern and compassion for the disenfranchised. We must work to not only develop scalable solutions but to also ensure they can be accessed by those who need them most. We must make deliberate and intentional efforts to include our vulnerable populations in preclinical studies and clinical trials. We must not let marginalized populations get neglected or left behind and instead take action to ensure our science matters to all people. We can work to ensure our science is important for everyone.

With forethought, we can propose innovative and transformative solutions to overcome our current problems and address basic issues such as equitable access to drugs, vaccines and therapeutics not just for COVID-19 but also for other global health priority diseases. We can strive to develop approaches that prioritize our neglected and global community members and offer equitable healthcare to all regardless of race, age, gender, geography or family income.

Health is a basic human right

If we learn one lesson from COVID-19, it should be that health is a basic human right for everyone, and it should not be an afterthought.

Research questions and hypotheses are our foundation for future clinical endeavors. Indeed, as health security emerges as an issue of pressing global concern, bold action is needed. We are capable of questioning, proposing and transforming our science to be important for all communities.

This will likely demand the unconventional and the nearly impossible ideas. This beseeches crazy scientific thoughts and unlimited speculation. We will ask and answer questions in uncustomary ways to tackle these monumental problems. We can foster our scientific curiosities and query the possible and impossible applicability to bolster our efforts in combating current and future issues.

Most importantly, we can evolve our science to matter for everyone.

Guest contributor: Jackie Turner, a CU medical student, graduate Hertz Fellow and Bill and Melinda Gates Summer Associate