Research is the ultimate health care reform, Jonathan Gitlin, assistant vice chancellor for Maternal and Child Health at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said during the fourth annual Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Science Day Feb. 15.
“Discovery is the only reform of value,” said Gitlin, using the analogy of the iron lung made obsolete by
the discovery of the polio vaccine. “Discovery is all that will eventually make a difference in the lives of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.”
Gitlin, who also is the James C. Overall Professor and chair of pediatrics, said he was confident research support would continue despite the poor economy and the prospect of major cuts in federal spending.
“Good science has always been funded,” he said. “Good science will change lives forever.” Gitlin urged young researchers to believe in themselves and “have the courage to move forward.”
Dennis Hall, vice provost for research and dean of the Graduate School, noted that Vanderbilt ranked 20th in 2007 in federal science and engineering support, according to the National Science Foundation, and placed 17th in the 2011 national university rankings published by U.S. News and World Report.
“This shows what we can accomplish when we work together,” Hall said. Reflecting on his own doctoral work in physics, Hall said he has come to appreciate what he did not at the time that “a doctorate is a gift – a complicated web of financing that underpins graduate education.”
Melissa Parisi, chief of the Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), sent a statement, which was read during the opening session by Donna Webb, Science Day chair and assistant professor of biological sciences.
“We at NICHD are thrilled that so many young people are pursuing research in science and, in particular, putting their blood, sweat, and tears into research on intellectual and developmental disabilities,” Parisi wrote.
“This is a profession that is both incredibly worthwhile and personally fulfilling,” she continued. “. . .There is no single ‘right’ way to craft a career in this field – it is a series of opportunities, chance events, encounters with amazing people, and persistence, hard work, and a sprinkling of luck.”
This year’s Science Day broke attendance and participation records, attracting 105 poster presentations and a crowd of about 200 Vanderbilt students, faculty and staff.