Event Recap: Milan Yager on Falling Out of Love with Science (video to come!)

by Erin Reagan

On November 28th, the Penn Science Policy and Diplomacy Group was thrilled to welcome distinguished speaker Milan Yager, the Executive Director of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering, to the University of Pennsylvania. His topic: Falling Out of Love with Science-- Why Congress Doesn't Fund Medical Innovation. Attendees heard about all the many innovations we use every day which were only made possible through generous federal funding for scientific research, from GPS technology to the iPhone screen. Mr. Yager also discussed the divide between many American voters and the scientists toiling away in their labs, as well as how to bridge the gap between the two seemingly very different worlds. Spoiler alert: the key is seeing the humanity in all people and taking time to understand each person's circumstances before casting aspersions on their opinions of things that might matter greatly to YOU but not to them.

Mr. Yager concluded by issuing a challenge to the audience: become pen pals with your legislators. Email them, write them, go to their town halls and campaign events and bother them about the issues that matter to you, because if you don't, you will quickly learn the truth of what Senator Mike Enzi once famously said: "If you're not at the table, you're on the menu."

After concluding his remarks, Mr. Yager stuck around for a vigorous Q&A session which centered on topics such as the most effective methods for influencing your representatives, how to craft questions in town halls to push politicians to give you real answers, and how to best take advantage of tools and resources offered by institutions like AIMBE and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). After the session, a small group of students was able to pick Mr. Yager's brain over lunch for advice and insight on how to make the biggest impact as a student still in training. Everyone enjoyed exchanging some great ideas, as well as sharing some excellent tacos.

Before he hopped back on a train to D.C., we were able to catch Mr. Yager for a quick interview. We'll be putting up the video of our interview soon, so stay tuned!