Need more evidence that our politics have become dysfunctional in the extreme? Probably not. But here’s some more anyway – Budget cuts tied to sequestration (itself a sign of serious political dysfunction) are driving some of our best scientists out of the U.S. So says the chief of the National Institutes of Health, anyway.
Dr. Francis Collins has sounded the alarm, pointing to a recent study by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB). Among the study findings: 80% of university-based scientists report more time writing grants than they did three years ago, with over 2/3 suffering federal funding cuts for their research. Universities don’t have the means to take up the slack, spelling disruption or elimination of research projects. More than half the scientists report, moreover, knowing colleagues who have been laid off. As a result, close to 20% of scientists are now thinking seriously about trying to move their work out of the U.S. to a country with more reliable support for research.
The sequester – there’s a mandated 5% cut to non-military spending – could suck up to $1 billion for research out of the federal budget. The damage will not be limited to sending some research colleagues abroad, but will carry forward in the form of fewer, smaller grants awarded and fewer students accepted to science doctoral programs.
If this seems like the intellectual equivalent as failing to repair our decaying physical infrastructure of roads and bridges, it is.
Dr. Collins isn’t afraid to tell it like it is to anyone willing to listen, and especially austerity-minded politicians - “If you want to convert this into real meaningful numbers, that means people are going to die of influenza five years from now because we don’t yet have the universal vaccine,” Dr. Collins said. “And God help us if we get a worldwide pandemic that emerges in the next five years, which takes a long time to prepare a vaccine for.”
Last month, the College of Nursing and USM family said good-bye to a former nursing dean. Dr. Gerry Cadenhead Fletcher began her career at The University of Southern Mississippi in 1980 to serve as the Chair of the Baccalaureate program at Southern Miss. She was named Dean of the College of Nursing in 1987 and served in that position until her retirement in 2001. During her tenure at Southern Miss, Dr. Fletcher used her influence to advance the College of Nursing, foster professional development of faculty, and guide students in their careers. After her retirement, Dr. Fletcher remained involved with the university, Mississippi nursing, and the Southern Miss Nursing program.
Gerry was a dynamic nursing leader, a true friend of Mississippi Nursing, an inspiration to students, and a positive and supportive friend to many. Most important is that Gerry modeled for all of us the importance of being engaged in your university, your place of employment, your profession and to give back to those institutions that provided you with the opportunity to be successful and to make a difference.
Gerry will always be remembered for her influence on others. As stated by one alumni and former USM nursing faculty, “Southern Miss and nursing have lost an irreplaceable and valuable treasure”.
Here’s a warm Southern Miss “WELCOME” to all you new students, faculty and staff.
And WELCOME BACK to those of you starting the new academic year as returning faculty, staff and students.
Best wishes for success in all that you do in the coming year.
Today’s Clarion-Ledger carries a Section B story titled “State’s Colleges Gaining Notice.” Nice notes from writer Dustin Barnes on a number of Mississippi’s public universities. Mississippi State ranks as a top research university, certainly the top banana in the state. Delta State garners kudos for leading “green” efforts to reduce energy consumption. Mississippi Valley is a super bargain and ranks high in graduate earnings. Ole Miss is among the “most literary” of universities in the nation, right up there with Smith College, Princeton, and Harvard. Little MUW, finally, is said to be one of the best colleges in the country to work for.
Okay, that’s five of eight publics enjoying at least a sliver of limelight. Not bad for the state; commissioner Bounds and the college board ought to be smiling today. But not so good if you’re Jackson State, Alcorn, or Southern Miss, and don’t seem to merit a mention. What are we, Mr. Barnes, the chopped liver of Mississippi higher ed? You’re a newsman; dig a little deeper, will you?
I just saw some new research work on the relation of poverty and health, but I won’t relate that here, now. Just assume for the moment that the connection is crystal clear. It would seem to follow, then, that if we (i.e. the USA) were serious, as we claim to be, about affecting health outcomes, we’d be a helluva lot more serious about addressing poverty than we appear to be – especially given that poverty has been on the rise for decades, and continues to climb.
Sadly, many of the same policymakers who stay in a constant lather over trying to roll back Obamacare (that would be a large number of Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives) seem either oblivious to the long-term corrosive impacts of poverty, or, worse, intent on eroding the few social supports – food stamps, unemployment insurance, health care access – that mitigate those impacts.
Is “compassionate conservatism” so absolutely and completely dead – perhaps a relic of a time when politicians at least occasionally rose to the call of statesmanship and made efforts to solve problems of substance for the general welfare of the people?
If so, why? Can anyone in Washington really, with a straight face, embrace the tired canard that poverty is caused by “too much welfare” for “people who don’t want to work”? What’s next? Poor people seeking health care “really don’t want to be well”?