The people's agenda  pg. 5

If you have someone like this who is clinically expert, their colleagues send them their difficult patients, patients who don’t fit the mold. When they see those patients, instead of saying, ‘Well, you just don’t fit, we’ll work around that,’ they say, ‘Gee, isn’t that interesting?’ and then they may discover new diseases, or new manifestations of old ones.

Also, great advances do often happen at the edges between fields… at the junctures between one field and another… It’s tricky to figure out how to facilitate that. Both we and the NIH talk about it a lot. It’s the unusual place that does collaboration very well… it’s historically one of Vanderbilt’s real strengths.

How can the public become more involved in cardiovascular research?

Nabel: I think that people in this country are very generous and really do want to help out and make a difference. Take a look at our Jackson Heart Study, where the response of the African-American community in Jackson, Miss., has just been overwhelming.

I think if these studies are done with transparency, full disclosure of risks and benefits and clear, informed consent, people in communities will participate.

Robertson: Having done clinical research for many years, I have always been remarkably impressed by the altruism of people. I think people are extraordinarily willing to participate in trials, even when the trial doesn’t hold any specific benefit for them but simply holds the potential for helping us learn about something that will help other people in the future. So why don’t we support research better?

When you survey the public, they do feel that increased research funding for medical advances is a highly desirable goal, and they would like Congress to invest in that… That’s not always expressed vocally enough to make it happen.

So we do need to increase both the knowledge and the desire in the public, and some of that is just a matter of basic science education.

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