RWAmerica has always been a leader in medical innovation and scientific discovery. Which is why, when you think of science, it’s easy to picture a lab filled with bright lights, whirring machines, and lots of furrowed eyebrows. The image of a scientist brings to mind one set of those furrowed eyebrows bent over an experiment, with focused energy, putting the last puzzle piece into a mystery that will save the lives of thousands. Unfortunately, today walking into most labs would not yield such an experience. Rather, imagine a tumbleweed blowing by an empty lab while scientists use all their intellectual resources to compete with their peers and mentors for research funding… no whirring, and much less energy focused on solving medical puzzles.

Growing up, I imagined that my generation would gather all of the knowledge painstakingly uncovered by dedicated scientists of the past and release it into the universe to save and improve lives across the world; but that vision no longer seems viable. What has happened to bring us so far from this dream? Better yet – what can we do to get it back?

Without question, we need to provide our most capable and resourceful with the tools required to cure deadly and disabling disease, curb skyrocketing healthcare costs, and secure America’s global leadership in research and development. We need to reject scientific skepticism and complacency that hinders innovation. Most importantly, we need our policymakers to lead this charge.

As the British chemist George Porter said, “Should we force science down the throats of those that have no taste for it? Is it our duty to drag them kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century? I am afraid that it is.” We have a lot of ground to make up.

Scientific research is no longer the promising career that it once was, and this “brain drain” is crippling our innovation pipeline as scientists leave the U.S. for more stable positions overseas. Why is this occurring? The purchasing power of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the largest funder of basic health research, is just three-quarters of what it was a decade ago. Grant success rates have been cut in half, and the average age for an individual’s first NIH grant is over 45. To reverse these trends, we need to provide funding for research at a level that allows us to catch-up, and keep-up, and fully utilize the brilliant minds and passionate scientists of this generation.

Millennials now outnumber baby boomers, boasting a population of 83.1 million. In the last election, our age group had the lowest turnout of eligible voters. Perhaps we have learned our lesson, as we seem to be turning out in droves this election cycle. Research conducted by Tufts University suggests millennials will be a major factor, and possibly even the deciding demographic, in 10 states: NV, NC, FL, VA, WI, CO, OH, PA, NH and IA, all of which are swing states.With millennials possessing so much potential decisive power, what matters to us, really matters. But how can we bring scientific and medical innovation to the forefront? By using platforms like Campaign for Cures to unify our voice and target our message.

Campaign for Cures is a voter education initiative that provides advocates with the information and tools necessary to elevate medical research into the national conversation. According to public opinion surveys conducted by Research!America and, over 80% of U.S. voters think it is important for candidates to assign a high priority to increasing funding for medical research. Voters are unified around the need for medical progress. Millennials have the voice. Now it’s our responsibility to elect officials that both embrace and encourage scientific discovery.

My hope for this generation is that we not only usher in a new era of science and knowledge, but even more critical, we welcome it with open, inquisitive minds. Let’s be the generation that doesn’t waste time questioning facts, but rather explores more questions. Let’s be the generation that no longer resists change, but is excited by it. Let’s be the generation that demands our country’s support for medical research, furthering the frontier of knowledge, and the pursuit of saving and improving lives. This election, let’s be the generation that votes for medical progress.

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