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The American Association of Immunologists

AAI Public Policy Fellows Program (PPFP)
2013-2014 Fellows

(To view past Fellows, click here.)

Rachel Bergerson, Ph.D.

Rachel Bergerson, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
I am very excited and honored to be chosen as an AAI Public Policy Fellow! This will be a wonderful opportunity to get out of the lab and learn about how policy that affects the scientific community is made. Specifically, I'd like to learn how the NIH determines policies that affect postdocs and biomedical research in general. I also hope to learn how to best advocate for support from our government to continue funding research on the national level. Young scientists like [me] are ultimately dependent on our elected officials to support and expand funding opportunities at the NIH and other federal agencies. Unfortunately, these efforts have become increasingly difficult given the "fiscal cliff" and sequester. This program will help me to connect with my political representatives and talk about the important work that scientists are doing that affect health care, our economy and our place in the world. I look forward to applying what I learn to advocate for scientific research on a local level as well.

Jennifer (Lori) Blanchfield, Ph.D.

Jennifer (Lori) Blanchfield, Ph.D., Emory University
I am thrilled to be selected for the AAI 2013-2014 Public Policy Fellows Program! This is a unique opportunity because I can gain public policy experience while continuing my research projects as a Postdoctoral Fellow. The driving force behind my interest in policy is that I enjoy community involvement and sharing information with others. Interaction with politicians to keep them informed of the particular needs of a community or organization is something I witnessed growing up. I learned that policy changes are attainable if you evaluate the facts and are willing to speak up. As scientists, we possess these skills which in turn enable us to be effective advocates for science-related issues. This fellowship will provide me with a unique foundation to build my voice as an advocate for policy reform while developing my scientific research career.

Gretchen Diehl, Ph.D.

Gretchen Diehl, Ph.D., New York University School of Medicine
I'm excited to have been selected as one of the 2013-14 AAI Public Policy Fellows. The importance of scientist participation in the public policy arena is often overlooked in favor of the work performed in the lab. But those policy discussions impact not only the funding available for basic research, but also the direction of scientific research in this country. The AAI Public Policy Fellows Program will provide me with the skills and insight into the public policy-making process that will allow me to serve as a more effective advocate on behalf of the biomedical research community. I'm looking forward to serving as a voice for biomedical researchers and to ensuring the continued growth and development of biomedical research in this country.

Katrina Hoyer, Ph.D.

Katrina Hoyer, Ph.D., University of California, Merced
It is an honor to be selected as an AAI Public Policy Fellow. At all stages of my scientific career, I have been supported by NIH funding. Now more than ever, it is critical to encourage continued NIH support for trainees and career scientists. As an academic professor studying autoimmune disease, I understand that our research advances facilitate improvements in health care. But we must be able to communicate this to lawmakers and the public in a meaningful and understand- able way. I look to my time as an AAI Public Policy Fellow as a means to improve my communication savvy, develop my career network, and better support and promote trainees, scientific research, and the immunology profession. I look forward to this opportunity to hone my science communication skills while advocating for the advancement of a profession to which I have dedicated my career.

Elizabeth Leadbetter, Ph.D.

Elizabeth Leadbetter, Ph.D., Trudeau Institute
I am honored to be selected as a 2013 AAI Public Policy Fellow and look forward to learning all I can about establishing effective lines of communication between our policy leaders and members of the scientific community. … [I]t is important to ensure that our lawmakers understand the importance of adequately training, funding, and retaining our future generations of scientists for the educational and economic future of our country. I am eager to discuss with our lawmakers the importance of financially supporting basic research, maintaining this key national economic resource, and continuing to improve the accessibility of this career for talented men and women with families. I expect that [the] AAI PPFP will be a rich training ground to learn how to advocate for policies which will ensure a strong future for scientific research in our country and I am eager to join the PPFP group in these endeavors.

Surojit Sarkar, Ph.D.

Surojit Sarkar, Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University
I am honored to be selected as one of the AAI Public Policy Fellows for 2013-14. As biomedical scientists, we have historically been focused on making discoveries that impact health and human diseases, publishing these findings and securing research funding. This philosophy has served us very well and has been the lynchpin for an American research enterprise that has been unrivalled in the world until now. As we move ahead in the new millennium, more will certainly be required of scientists to understand the process of lobbying and legislation in public support of biomedical research funding. More will also be required of lawmakers to interface with scientists and the public to communicate the justification of scientific investments in a language that is both understandable and impactful. In the coming year as an AAI Public Policy Fellow, I look forward to educating myself in the process of policymaking that is behind one of the world's most successful scientific enterprises.

Jeremy Schaefer, Ph.D.

Jeremy Schaefer, Ph.D., University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Dentistry
I am very honored and excited to be selected as a fellow for the 2013-14 AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. The very vociferous debate regarding the financial and … moral priorities of the United States government that has occurred in recent years piqued my interest in the political machinations behind public policy formation. The AAI Public Policy Fellows Program seemed like the perfect opportunity to engage this interest and to learn more about policy creation. As an AAI PPFP participant, I am looking forward to discovering the minutiae that transpires to shape public policy, particularly as it relates to science education and the funding and conduct of research. I hope that participation in this program will enable me to become a better advocate for the research community and convey my passion for research to the community at large.

Brian Sheridan, Ph.D.

Brian Sheridan, Ph.D., University of Connecticut Health Center
I am extremely honored to be selected as one of the fellows for the 2013-2014 AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. A career in scientific research increasingly requires a deep understanding of not only our chosen fields but also policy decisions and their impact. These decisions will ultimately dictate the future state of our scientific endeavors and the standing of this country as a leader in scientific innovation. As a Public Policy Fellow, I hope to share with our representatives the importance of science on all aspects of our lives. I am eager to learn how scientists may effectively communicate policy ideas to legislators to impact funding and education. I feel it is our civic responsibility to educate ourselves on government operations and the political process and the AAI PPFP provides an excellent platform to accomplish this. Ultimately, our goal should be to ensure that future generations continue to enjoy the same cutting edge innovation which has kept this country at the forefront of scientific discovery.

Tamisha Vaughan, Ph.D.

Tamisha Vaughan, Ph.D., Emory University
I am extremely honored and humbled to be selected for the AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. AAI has recognized that exposing young scientists to opportunities for networking and building strong knowledge in public policy is critical for career advancement. I, too, support the notion of increased mentorship and political exposure in research and find myself encouraged by the efforts of The AAI to address these issues, particularly the opportunity to understand funding mechanisms and meet individuals making such decisions. … Scientists have a strong obligation not only to do conduct good research but to educate those around us on the importance of funding sources and the consequence of the lack of research. This obligation should not fall short of Capitol Hill. This program will allow me the opportunity to network, build collaborations and grow professionally by understanding the politics behind the science.

Stephanie Watkins, Ph.D.

Stephanie Watkins, Ph.D., Loyola University Chicago Medical Center
I am excited by the opportunity to participate in the AAI Public Fellows Program for 2013-2014. Throughout my training, I have been fortunate to experience both the advantages and challenges of academic research within the University as well as in the intramural NIH program. For the next phase of my career, I am dedicated to learning the procedures involved in the development of public policy and communicating with legislators that affect funding for biomedical research. These new experiences will equip me with the skills to become a better advocate for the future of research.


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