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The academic clinician scientist’s important role in translating research into action
Evidence based advocacy integrates the otherwise independent but overlapping efforts of clinicians, academics, epidemiologists, public health officials, and policymakers to apply scientific principles to widespread health promotion and prevention initiatives. We argue here that advocacy efforts lie within academic medical responsibilities, in part because health care academics lend credibility, as well as inspiration and imagination to these worthwhile pursuits, but more so because it concludes a professional obligation to those in our care by translating research to action. Just as rigorous science builds the evidence base for change, rigorous efforts and their evaluation are necessary to ensure that this evidence will be translated into change.
SUCCESSFUL MODELS OF ADVOCACY
Perhaps the most striking historical example of the impact of individual academic clinician scientists on advocacy efforts has been in the containment and control of poliomyelitis. International public sector and private sector partnerships among government agencies and local health care providers ensure routine immunizations, offer supplementary immunizations, and implement careful surveillance of the occurrence of acute flaccid paralysis. Recent efforts have reduced the burden of polio globally by greater than 99% since 1988.1 Academic clinician scientists, Dr Jonas Salk at the University of Pittsburgh and Dr Albert Sabin at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, pioneered broad polio immunization efforts in the 1960s.
Health care providers have also been instrumental in shaping and implementing advocacy efforts related to smoking cessation. Dr Luther L Terry, Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service, released a landmark report from the Surgeon General’s Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health on 11 January 1964, providing the initial scientific evidence linking smoking to cancer and other serious diseases.2 More recently, the Joint Committee on Smoking and Health issued a Special Report outlining global physician responsibility in the control of …