On Saturday, September 8, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a very special event on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) main campus, called “Celebration of Science,” otherwise known as COS. Going to the main campus is always a treat. The beautiful gardens, the flowers, the trees! The event was held at the end of the summer, and the weather was perfect.
The 3-day event highlighted how important it is to fund biomedical research. COS featured scientists, patients, and caregivers speaking on topics such as HIV/AIDS, neuroscience, and rehabilitation medicine. There also were discussions with policymakers and industry leaders on the health and economic benefits of biomedical research. The audience included elected officials, heads of Government agencies, philanthropists, leaders of academic research centers, distinguished scientists, and the media.
The event was quite a production, with a full camera crew, lights, and stage sets. NIH volunteers were needed as backup. I was lucky enough to be paired with an NIH employee working in the Office of Science Policy in the Office of the Director, which is where Dr. Francis S. Collins, the Director of NIH, spends his work day. I learned a lot of valuable information about what it is like to work there.
One of my favorite aspects of the event was the patient advocacy presentations. A guest editor at a popular magazine shared her story about the difficulty of caring for a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s. Another panel included three people living with AIDS, each of whom shared their personal stories of how they’ve experienced stigma, isolation, and prejudice because of their HIV+ status.
It’s so inspiring that these people share their stories in an effort to educate those around them. And these stories put a human face on all the statistics shared at COS, driving home how essential biomedical research is to helping people who are struggling with both rare and common diseases.
Zofia Klosowska, a graduate of the University of Maryland, was a summer intern in NIDA's Office of Science Policy and Communications. Now she is a Research Training Award Fellow at NIDA's Intramural Research Program labs in Baltimore, Maryland, where she works with scientists looking into environmental and individual reasons people use drugs and relapse after treatment. Read Zofia’s previous blog post, Life as an Intern at NIDA’s Public Information and Liaison Branch.