Lisa Simpson at the podium at ARM23

When I come to ARM – I am always so proud of our growth, our progress, the quality and relevance of our evidence, the dynamism of our community and its growing diversity – particularly the new voices who are enriching and strengthening our work.

But gathering together also challenges me, and I can in turn challenge all of you, to remember that we have not yet achieved the full promise of our mission, and that serious, even existential threats, remain. We’ll face some of these challenges head on in our three plenary discussions, which will focus on equity, reproductive justice, and climate change.

These are sobering and important conversations, and I know that these days, it is easy to look around and feel overwhelmed by the many external forces that are driving against progress: misinformation, partisan rhetoric, increasing hate and division to name just a few.

But we have the tools and talents to demand and drive change. Importantly, we don’t all have the SAME tools, or talents, and that’s where this community we’ve built together becomes so much more than our individual gifts. Our diversity of background, training, resources, and access - when shared through collaboration, education, and advocacy - fuels tremendous collective impact.

To achieve that impact, we must demand and drive change by harnessing our passion FOR (1) better health and care that is respectful and equitable for all, (2) FOR evidence and facts to be not only be produced but also made accessible and used to inform critical decisions, and (3) FOR the courage to stand up to power with truth and honesty, and to hold our leaders accountable for progress.

Better Health and Care for All

Working for better health and care for all requires that we address the inequities that surround us and in our workforce. Who counts as “we” matters?  AcademyHealth is committed to making our organization and our field a more welcoming and nurturing community for individuals and organizations working together. Our diversity, equity, and inclusion strategy, shared on our website and woven throughout our programs, is one part of that commitment. So too is the updated code of conduct you see posted around the meeting and shared recently in an excellent blog post by members Hannah Rockford and Bianca Frogner.

Working for better health and care also means asking better questions – not just questions that advance OUR careers, but questions that reflect the interests and needs of research users – policymakers and clinicians, yes, but also patients, community members and other stakeholders.

Producing and Using Facts

And answering users’ questions effectively means honing and expanding our use of methods and data. In my 12 years at AcademyHealth, there has been a seismic shift in the types of methods and data available to support our work. From early investments in electronic health records, to user-generated data, decolonizing methods, and the large language models like chat GPT that we’re considering today. We must constantly challenge ourselves to expand our curiosity and our rigor.  

And then, ensuring facts are accessible and actionable includes the ACTIVE translation and dissemination of science. For this reason, AcademyHealth co-hosts the Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health with NIH, offers a new online Communicating for Impact course, and launched the Public Voices fellowship to train and support 20 researchers annually to bring their expertise and voice to the public square. But knowing how to translate is only part of the equation.

Our commitment to getting evidence in the hands of decisionmakers also extends to our state-focused networks like SUPLN and MODRN, our communities of practice, and patient and consumer-centered efforts.

And all of this work and more is supported and amplified via our advocacy initiatives, ensuring that we are both educating federal policymakers and regulatory authorities about the existing evidence in support of their work, and advocating for sustainable and sufficient federal support for training, research, and data.

Standing Up to Power

Which gets me to my third point – we must stand up to power with truth and honesty and hold our leaders accountable for progress.

I have been able to grow my power and voice in part because of the credibility and relationships I’ve built over the last 30 years. Washington, and most other halls of power, run on relationships and influence - professional assets that are not given by our credentials alone but built over time and nourished by honesty, responsiveness, and reliability.

If you haven’t already, start building those skills and networks here. If you have privilege and access, use it to lift up new voices and those typically excluded from the halls of power. I had the immense privilege of being networked into this community by Phil Lee, Clif Gaus, and others. Not everyone has that – we must be mentors, champions, and sponsors for the next generation.

And perhaps most importantly, we must stand together in the face of unprecedented attacks on science, education, and freedom of speech. Make no mistake, if science and education are being silenced anywhere, then science and education are suffering everywhere. We must stand up and stand together for academic freedom.

I know that together, we are stronger, more energized, and more capable to meet the challenges ahead.

In closing, let me leave you with this final charge. As you participate in the meeting, what will you learn that stretches you? What will you do differently when you go back to your desk next week?

As for me, this is my last ARM as AcademyHealth’s President and CEO, but it is not quite the end of my AcademyHealth tenure. I’ll be spending the next 8 months working with the board and staff to ensure a smooth transition for your next leader. Then, in February, I’ll step away to recharge and recalibrate for the next phase of my commitment to equity, evidence, and action.

Until then and beyond, I look forward to continuing to work with all of you to make our mission a reality.

Blog comments are restricted to AcademyHealth members only. To add comments, please sign-in.