Research!America CEO urges UNMC to spread the importance of research

From left, UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, Mark Rupp, MD, with the Bartee Advocacy of Science Award, Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, and Helen and Bob Bartee

Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, urged the health science professionals at UNMC to put a face on research – making health research personal for the general public.

Woolley delivered the inaugural Bob and Helen Bartee and Family Advocacy of Science Lectureship March 26 before a room of some of the med center’s leading professionals gathered at the Fred & Pamela Buffett Cancer Center.

At a time when federal research funding has dipped and public confidence in research has slipped, Woolley said the researchers and professionals at UNMC can join in common purpose with elected officials and the general public.

She said the four most important words for a scientist are: “I work for you.”

“Research works for all of us,” Woolley told the crowd in attendance. “That’s the bottom-line message – you work for the public, I work for the public. And I work for you, too, but I can’t do it alone.”

The Bartee Lectureship, created by Bob Bartee, the former vice chancellor for external relations, and his family, invites a recognized expert to UNMC annually to provide a lecture and engage with UNMC faculty and students on topics related to making science relevant, engaging with the community and building science literacy and trust in science.

UNMC Chancellor Jeffrey P. Gold, MD, congratulates Mark Rupp, MD, on receiving the Bartee Advocacy of Science Award.

In coordination with the lecture, UNMC’s Mark Rupp, MD, chief of infectious diseases, received the Bartee Advocacy of Science Award, given to a UNMC scientist who exemplifies and lives out a commitment to community engagement.

Aligning with Woolley’s message, Dr. Rupp said: “We all play a role in educating the public about science and serving as advocates. And each and every one of us interact with our family, with our friends, with our neighbors. And in all of those interactions, we can serve as ambassadors for medical research and for medical science.”

Woolley said she was deeply touched at the invitation to come to UNMC – and said it was the first time an academic medical health center has created such an advocacy award for science.

She told Dr. Rupp, “There should be more of you in more places around the country.”

Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, delivers the inaugural Bartee Lectureship.

Woolley said individual science and research advocates can make a difference – becoming more visible in the community and helping the public more easily relate to the issues behind research.

Among the steps she urged UNMC officials to take:

  • Dedicate more time to community engagement and communication with the public.
  • Normalize science communication and public engagement by students, postdocs and faculty.
  • Support public engagement training on campus and events with the local community.

Woolley even offered some simple tips for “talking to non-scientists about science.” Those included: Listen, tell a story that relates to the audience, avoid jargon and acronyms, and practice conversations with family and friends.

“Being able to describe the work you do in a way that aligns with the aspirations of everybody else in our community,” she said, “is critical to the success in advocacy.”


  1. Heidi Keeler says:

    This was an amazing presentation and gathering. Can’t wait to follow through on the recommendations.
    Thanks to Bob and Helen, their family, and everyone who made the day possible.

  2. Lynn Borstelmann says:

    Dr. Rupp is more than deserving of this award and it is encouraging to see UNMC taking a lead in the advocacy of science.

  3. Tom O’Connor says:

    Bravo to Bob and Helen Bartee for creating this lectureship. It is a brilliant way to make people more aware of the importance of research.

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