Psychological scientist visits Capitol Hill to advocate for NIH funding

More than 200 participants join the 2019 Rally for Medical Research.

By William Stoops, PhD

The 2019 Rally for Medical Research brought together more than 200 patients, families, survivors and researchers for visits to Capitol Hill on September 19, 2019 to advocate for an increase of $2.5 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for fiscal year 2020.  I was pleased to participate as a representative of the American Psychological Association, bringing my experience as a psychological scientist and substance use disorder researcher at the University of Kentucky.

As pointed out by NIH director Francis Collins at a reception the evening before the Rally, NIH routinely receives bipartisan support, because NIH research saves lives, creates jobs and has an over $8 return on investment for every dollar spent.

Dr. William Stoops of the University of Kentucky and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.

Dr. William Stoops of the University of Kentucky and NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins.

Psychological science can be brought to bear on many of the country’s problems because so many illnesses have a strong behavioral component, including substance use disorder, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. It was with this mindset that I visited the offices of my Members of Congress to talk about the value of psychological science and of increases to NIH funding.

On the day of the Rally, I met with staff from the offices of Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).   I was pleased with the amount of time they gave me and the interest they showed in learning about my substance use disorder research, how NIH funding benefits constituents, and how crucial it is to have psychological science in the NIH portfolio.

I described my research, including a large trial evaluating how a behavioral intervention can affect cocaine use and subsequently impact cardiac, immune and psychosocial function. I also discussed the controlled human laboratory studies at the University of Kentucky that are aimed at understanding the behavioral and pharmacological mechanisms that contribute to substance use disorder. Although not experts in this area, the staffers asked thoughtful questions and showed they understood the importance and sophistication of this research.

The advocates for the 2019 Rally for Medical Research.

The advocates for the 2019 Rally for Medical Research.

I don’t think that psychologists do enough of this type of advocacy work. We have a lot of answers to the big problems facing society, but we must speak to our leaders and the public in ways that lead to better understanding and implementation of our work.  

I’m looking forward to continuing to advocate for psychological science and encourage you to do so as well. 

For further information on APA’s participation in the Rally for Medical Research, please contact Craig Fisher, PsyD via email.