Our nation has been one of the drivers of innovation in the field of medicine and we are very fortunate to have so many research institutions, such as Western University, contributing to pushing the boundaries of knowledge. I know that many science students are involved in research or at least are thinking about pursuing an area of research. The question I want to ask in the context of Western is, what areas have we been focusing on? What areas have we been neglecting?
As researchers, we have the curiosity that drives us to further explore our passions but also the noble goal of benefiting our society and humanity. Have you heard of Chagas disease? Dengue fever? Lyme disease? These are diseases that devastate a huge proportion of the world’s population yet hasn’t been brought to the public awareness or the topic of discussion in academia. This is also the case for the rising problem of antimicrobial resistance illustrated in the previous blog posts. All of these observations of a lack of research in areas that have lower profitability illustrates a larger problem in our research and development system. In many ways, it is failing to address global health needs.
We see that this is important to address because universities play a role; one quarter to one third of new medicines originate in a university lab. “The social mission of academic institutions allows them to use public resources to serve and strengthen society. Our universities can, and should, be challenging this profit-driven system using their unique leverage to both propose and implement solutions to create a patient- centered R&D system.”- Rachel Kiddell-Monroe.
As science students who are active in the research community, we believe that access to healthcare should be a right, not a privilege. It is important to consider the potential impacts of our research on society and global health. We need to take the initiative to ensure the fruits of our research are disseminated to people who need them most. Students also play a role in this global health issue and they will continue to play a role because they will make up the next generation of researchers, educators, and policy makers.
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Written by: Emmy Sun
Emmy is currently in her third year of undergraduate studies at Western University and serves as UAEM Western's VP Innovation.