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The American Association of Immunologists

AAI Public Policy Fellows Program (PPFP)
2017-2018 Fellows

(To view past Fellows, click here.)

Heather Marie Buechel, Ph.D.

Heather M. Buechel, Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh
I am honored and relieved, quite frankly, to be selected as an AAI Public Policy Fellow. In a time when there is so much anti-science rhetoric floating around, so many misconceptions, misquotes, and alternative facts, it’s easy to feel like options for making a positive impact are limited. I am delighted to have the opportunity to advocate for science research and learn about science policy-making with the AAI team. I look forward to improving my science communication skills while working to maintain the relationship between the scientific community, the public, and our government.

David J. Dowling, Ph.D.

David J. Dowling, Ph.D., Boston Children's Hospital & Harvard Medical School
Infection is a leading cause of death in newborns and infants worldwide. Childhood vaccines are the single most important intervention to prevent these deaths. Recently, some important political leaders have publically voiced anti-vaccination sentiments. Such misconceptions around vaccines could legitimatize opponents of vaccination, causing serious harm to the people most susceptive to infectious diseases in our society, the very young and the elderly. This unique opportunity to participate in the AAI Public Policy Fellows Program will greatly improve my knowledge of the role of the Executive and Legislative branches, along with the NIH, in determining the laws and policies that affect vaccine research. I believe that there is urgent need for scientists to stand up and learn the skills needed to best advocate for, and help shape, vaccine policies during the coming decades.

GMariana Guerra-Maupome, D.V.M.

Mariana Guerra-Maupome, D.V.M., Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine
I felt incredibly honored to be selected as an AAI Public Policy Fellow for 2017-2018. I look forward to participating in the program and learning how scientists can better communicate with policymakers in order to increase biomedical research funding. I am also very excited to have a unique opportunity to help bridge the gap between policymakers and scientists working on immunological research on zoonotic diseases. Increasing federal funding in areas that potentially impact human health and the economy is crucial to the continuous advancement of biomedical research. I look forward to meeting all the other 2017-18 fellows and former PPFs.

Farrah C. Phillips, Ph.D.

Farrah C. Phillips, Ph.D., St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
Being selected for the AAI Public Policy Fellows Program is a great honor. This program has provided many postdoctoral fellows and other early career scientists with a unique opportunity to get to know the ins-and-outs of science policy-making in Washington, and I consider myself another fortunate participant. Advocacy for basic science research is increasingly important to the continuation and expansion of federal funding, and the responsibility of advocacy falls on those who of us who have dedicated our lives to conducting research. However, during graduate and postgraduate training, scientists are not taught how to advocate for the funding that supports their research. Without public support, generating additional funding or even maintaining current funding can prove nearly impossible. It is my hope that the experiences and information accumulated during my year as an AAI Public Policy Fellow will inform not only me, but also my mentors, colleagues, peers, and the next generation of science advocates.

Rachel S. Resop, Ph.D.

Rachel S. Resop, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles
I am thrilled to have been selected to participate in this year's AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. Many basic scientists have a limited understanding of the policies that govern the funding that supports our everyday work. I will benefit greatly from learning how policy decisions are made that determine the funding allocated to research. I am interested in learning how to translate basic scientific information and knowledge to individuals from disadvantaged populations in my community, as well as worldwide, who need tangible care; in particular, how decisions are made that determine which areas of research are funded, and how policies are developed that facilitate translation of basic research developments to patient care. Participation in the AAI PPFP will be an invaluable experience as we will learn how key decisions are made at the federal level and how researchers can become involved as influencers and advocates.

Timothy Rosean, Ph.D.

Timothy Rosean, Ph.D., University of Virginia
It is a pleasure and privilege to be selected as a 2017-2018 AAI Public Policy Fellow, and I am eager to participate in the program. It is imperative that scientists become more involved in public policy and better communicate with both our elected officials and the general public. Immunologists need to be more vocal about the countless contributions that we have made in advancing public health, from creating better vaccines to developing new therapies to fight cancer. I am excited to develop the skills and the relationships that are necessary to give scientists a larger voice in the political realm. This fellowship will give me the opportunity to understand how to better advocate for biomedical research and influence policy in a way that encourages increased funding to the biomedical sciences.

Nathaniel Schuldt, Ph.D.

Nathaniel Schuldt, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Scientific research greatly influences our everyday lives in ways we often take for granted. As we adopt new technologies, we quickly forget what life was like without them. To some extent, that is the point: to improve and ease our way of life. While it would be impractical and exhausting to celebrate each innovation, we can be mindful of where they come from. Government funding is critical to scientific research and training. Without it, the careers of many scientists doing impactful research across various fields would be in jeopardy. I believe that we scientists must actively advocate on our own behalf in order to maintain these important government investments. I am very grateful to be included in the 2017-2018 AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. I thank AAI for this unique opportunity and look forward to learning more about how biomedical research policies are shaped and how I may serve as a better advocate for scientific research.

Julie Swartzendruber, Ph.D.

Julie Swartzendruber, Ph.D., Midwestern University
I am honored to be selected as an AAI Public Policy Fellow. I look forward to learning how to advocate for biomedical research and building relationships with members of the AAI public affairs staff and other fellows. I am particularly interested in learning about the forces that influence public policy and how to best communicate and advocate for biomedical research. As a fellow, I look forward to developing the skills required to be successful as a science policy leader. I am hopeful for the future of scientific research and am excited by the opportunity this fellowship will provide. I am thankful to the AAI for this opportunity and look forward to connecting with the network of leaders who are advocating for science policy.

Melissa M. Walker, Ph.D.

Melissa M. Walker, Ph.D., University of Colorado School of Medicine
I am honored to have been selected as an AAI Public Policy Fellow for 2017-2018. I am excited to participate in the AAI PPFP to gain knowledge about the development of government policies that directly or indirectly affect biomedical research, as well as, learn the most effective techniques for advocating for the policies I feel so strongly about. Throughout my career, I have encountered certain obstacles that I am currently very committed to addressing, and hope, working alongside my scientific peers as well as legislators, to offer tangible solutions to these problematic areas. Aside from advocating for policies that address the need for increased funding for biomedical research, I am also extremely enthusiastic about addressing the need for increased diversity in biomedical research with an emphasis on the successful retention of female scientists in positions of leadership.

Spencer C. Wei, Ph.D.

Spencer C. Wei, Ph.D., University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center
I am truly honored and excited to participate in the 2017-2018 AAI Public Policy Fellows Program. Scientific advocacy is a critical aspect of the research ecosystem as biomedical research is largely funded through federal mechanisms. As such, it is important for researchers at all levels to understand how scientific policy is formulated and to gain perspective on how to shape public opinion of the value of academic and industrial biomedical research. It is the responsibility of researchers and the greater scientific community to convey the immense value of basic and biomedical research. I am eager to use this opportunity to gain insights into the complexities that surround funding mechanisms and the formation of scientific policy so that I can more effectively engage in scientific advocacy in the future.


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