Gayblack Canadian Man

Foreign Policy Analysis

Larry Tabak


>>Larry Tabak: So, good
morning to all of you. Usually when I show up at
an event, there is sort of slumping of shoulders, and
people realize that the really tall guy with the
mustache who plays guitar and is a geneticist
isn’t going to be here. [laughter] And Francis [phonetic sp]
does apologize for not being able to be with you this
morning, but he did want me to share with you his
personal congratulations and greetings. I’d like to say that one
of the things I learned in preparing for this brief
introduction is you should never, ever search the
internet using the terms “interesting ways to
celebrate your 20th birthday.” [laughter] Don’t do this. I won’t say that it was
enlightening, but it was eye opening. So, be very mindful
of the search terms. You need to use precision,
and speaking of precision and clear language, you
know, let me congratulate all the behavioral and
social scientists, researchers, and members of
the staff here today for your creativity, your
diligence, your resilience, and perhaps most importantly
your perseverance. You know, over the past
number of years we’ve heard from too many people, many
of whom have tried to deliberately twist and
contort the terms or language used in some
research studies, either to oversimplify at best
and at worst to somehow misrepresent very important
scientific pursuits. And we wanted you to know
that NIH stands with you. We’ve gone on record
numerous times to defend behavioral and social
science as a crucial discipline. We feel very strongly
about this and we plan on continuing to tackle this. You know, many of these
attacks have used exaggeration and hyperbole
to draw media attention. For example, one of my —
I don’t know if I’d quote favorites but one that comes
to mind is the, “NIH funding research on quote “cigarette
smoking detecting underwear.” [laughter] By the way the actual
grant, the development of noninvasive monitoring
systems for cigarette smoking was creating
and testing a wearable respiratory and hand
movement sensors that though via pattern recognition
could detect each episode of smoking in real time. And so, very few reasonable
individuals would question the potential value of such
device, but unfortunately the oversimplification of
the grant title grabbed the headlines, and then undercut
the actual merits of the work. And so, you know, it
requires a redoubling of public education and
communication, and something that all of us
together need to do. So, I think that just
to slip in a short but important public
service pitch, okay. Dr. Collins [phonetic sp]
and I want to encourage behavioral and social
sciences community to continue to propose rigorous
and impactful research that is, you know, just
impossible to attack, you know. You’re doing a great service
both to public health and the general body of scientific and medical knowledge. So, continue to be creative. Keep bold proposals coming. Your ideas, your knowledge
of health and disease, and what we gain from your
studies is essential. Now, I think it’s probably
appropriate for me to acknowledge the three core
elements of the bold vision that OBSSR has
set for itself. Next generation measurement
and data, influence on population health, and
training the next generation of behavioral and
social scientists. I mean, each one of these
alone would be sufficient, but obviously taken together
this is a very powerful package. This is a very powerful set
of objectives to realize. If you consider the
anniversary theme as that’s being displayed here,
healthy lives through behavioral and social
sciences, the three elements of the OBSSR’s vision
aligned perfectly with the NIH vision. And obviously this mutually
advantageous integration is playing out in real time as
we outline NIH’s integral role in the precedence,
precision medicine initiative, particularly in
the areas of measurement, big data, and of course
next generation training. Important perhaps more
broadly are OBSSR’s goals to foster additional and deeper
collaborations of the biomedical, biobehavioral,
and social science communities to address the
very complex and pressing health challenges
that face our nation. Now, you all know
this implicitly. Behavior matters. You know, you’ll hear the
statistic a lot today and I’m not telling you anything
that you already don’t know, but I believe it needs to
become part of our, you know, natural mantra. You know, about half of
all premature deaths are attributable to behavioral
and social science factors. That’s a stunning statement
when you think about it. Half of the
premature deaths. Now, you know that. The question is let’s not
keep that a secret, all right. We know from NIH supportive
research that evidence based efforts from smoking
cessation back to sleep anti-HIV AIDS efforts, the
public health efforts and behavioral and social
sciences play seminal roles in addressing behavioral
and social determinance of health. And so, please never forget
that all of you and members of the community at large
are really making an extraordinary difference. I’m talking about cancer,
heart disease, infant mortality, global
AIDS prevention. Can I slip in
dental health also? It wasn’t in there,
but I just put it in. You know, the impact is
of course — it has to be obvious there. So, you know, we in the
scientific research community know that behavior
matters, and no matter that it’s often terribly
complicated and difficult to fathom, just because it’s
complex doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be tackling
it and tackling it with the most sophisticated, most
advanced approaches possible. We appreciate the work of
OBSSR and to each and every one of you who help
us meet the mission. We thank OBSSR for 20 years
of outstanding leadership and we want to thank you and
all of your collaborators to help move the
office forward. Now I want to segue right
into my chief or second chief responsibility this
morning, and it’s my pleasure to introduce
someone who is very well known at NIH as your keynote
speaker today, Dr. Alan Leshner. Alan, I read this and
I didn’t believe it. It’s been more than 10 years
since you were an NIH’er. That’s wow. Where did it all
go this time? But let me quickly
reacquaint some of you who may not know that
side of Alan. He served at NIH as Director
of the National Institute on Drug Abuse from 1994 to
2001, while here he also served as deputy director
and acting director of the National Institute
of Mental Health. Now, in December of 2001,
for some reason he left and joined this organization,
American Assoc. — the triple A S [phonetic
sp] of course as CEO and as the executive publisher of
their journal, “Science.” I think that there’s a lot
of other stuff around but, you know, he’s an elected
fellow of the triple A S, the National Academy of
Public Administration, the American Artists [phonetic
sp] and Sciences, a member of the Institute of
Medicine, of the national academies, and serves
on its governing board. He’s also a member of the
National Science Board first appointed by President Bush,
and then reappointed by President Obama. So, that’s pretty cool, and
for all of us at NIH, we feel like Alan never really
left because he was so much a part of the fabric
of this place. I want you all to join me in
welcoming Alan back to NIH. [applause]

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