What interested you in the Lawrence Goldstein Science Policy Fellowship Program?
Leadership in any field of science requires broad knowledge of the major policy issues impacting the field. The Lawrence Goldstein Science Policy Fellowship provides first-hand experience in stem cell research policy and advocacy spearheaded by a major international scientific society. Having engagement with leaders in biomedical science, ethics, and law will provide knowledge of current policy issues impacting stem cell science and how to best advance the responsible translation of regenerative medicine.
How do you hope to benefit from the policy fellowship program?
To be at the leading edge where scientific discoveries happen and to be able to assess their impact on science and society in order to generate appropriate policy responses. Although I have some policy experience working at Health Canada, I am interested in understanding how a scientific society influences public policy through development of guidance on the conduct of research and advocacy for increased support of stem cell research.
What is the current focus of your policy research, and what do you find most rewarding about your work?
One of my areas of policy research focuses on examining various legal and policy strategies to promote sound scientific research through established regulatory mechanisms and to curtail the marketing of scientifically unproven stem cell interventions. I am also interested in understanding how to improve the awareness and use of existing mechanisms to provide preapproval access of products to patients through examination of the United States Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Expanded Access pathways and the U.S. Right to Try Act.
Do you have research interests outside of the policy arena?
My research also focuses on health behavior and health communication. I am interested in understanding how patients consider credibility of online information (e.g. a narrative on social media) provided by different sources (e.g. experts, patients) and to develop ways to better inform patients about regenerative medicine options. I believe this area of research remains understudied in the context of unproven stem cell interventions where there is so much misinformation about stem cells therapies on the internet.
What led you to become involved with science policy?
Bioethics serves as the foundation to ethical science policy. I began studying bioethics and policy in my post-doctoral studies in order to complement my biomedical research background and work for the federal public service. Although I was first exposed to science policy through bioethics research, one of my most significant experiences came from working at Health Canada in policy and program development as it related to embryo research, in vitro fertilization, and scientific integrity. When transitioning back to academic bioethics research, I concentrated on both policy research and practice in the context of stem cells and regenerative medicine, biobanking, gene editing, and the responsible conduct of research.
What is the most exciting aspect of your work?
Two things come to mind. First, would be collaborating with people who are excited about bioethics and behavioral research who come from diverse backgrounds and bring different experiences to projects. Second, I have had some opportunities to turn research findings into real-world applications that ultimately help patients. An earlier project involved creating a patient booklet discussing stem cell therapies and what patients should look for and ask about when considering a stem cell intervention. Currently, I am carving out areas where I can continue to inform patients and physicians about stem cells and regenerative medicine interventions so that patients can make informed decisions about their health care.
What guidance would you share in talking with trainees interested in pursuing science policy?
I believe trainees can be involved in policy in many ways. It might be possible for trainees to be involved at their local institution or possibly through an internship in a nearby policy organization. This might include government or a non-governmental organization such as a scientific society, a think-tank or even areas of policy within a college or university.. This would provide a great opportunity to get some initial exposure. When transitioning from biomedical research to bioethics and policy, I took a short sabbatical from my Ph.D. to hold two internships in Washington D.C., which were my entry into science policy. It was here I understood the importance of ethics in science policy and it helped to shape my career path.
Do you have any mentors or individuals who have inspired you in your policy work?
I have a long list of senior mentors who have inspired me to enter and work in science policy. I would start with my Ph.D. supervisor, Dr. Daniel J. Dumont, who encouraged me and offered support to pursue science policy. I have been inspired by the policy work of Doug Sipp at Riken and by Tim Caulfield, who continues to impress me with his public engagement efforts. I am also pretty impressed with the way the U.S. FDA continues to work with Members of Congress, and governmental and non-governmental organizations in the areas of regenerative medicine and preapproval access.
How do you spend your free time?
Bike riding. Minnesota does not have long summers but the summers are beautiful and it is perhaps one of the states with the most amount of riding trails. Every chance I get, I love to take my bike out for a spin or ride in support of community or charity events.
What is something your peers would be surprised to learn about you?
My partner loves adventure and she convinced me to do the EdgeWalk on the CN Tower in Toronto. Although I didn’t think I was afraid of heights, I realized when high enough everyone is afraid. I was happy to be back in the tower.
What do you most value about your membership and involvement with the ISSCR?
I am most impressed with ISSCR’s dedication to evidence-based science and medicine. The organization, its leaders and staff, and the many members comprising its committees are major influencers in the ethical conduct of scientific research in an area that is ethically, politically, and socially sensitive. I also quite enjoy learning about cutting edge biomedical and behavioral research involving stem cells from ISSCR’s various meetings and symposia and now I get to be involved in understanding how ISSCR helps shape science policy.