When Claire Brindis was elected to the National Academy of Medicine (formerly the Institute of Medicine) in 2011, it was one of the most thrilling moments of her academic career. “To be elected to this very august group was extremely meaningful in terms of the recognition of my scientific contributions,” said Brindis. “But it was also a humbling moment. While I was awed by the others in my cohort, who represented such a diverse set of disciplines, I was also touched to see how many of my colleagues also felt the same level of humbleness. Being acknowledged is affirming, but there was also a shared feeling that so much more needs to be done in continuing to build scientific evidence.”
Brindis was contributing well before she was elected to membership, serving on a number of study committees that examined a variety of issues. That service also inspired her to donate generously to the NAM over the years. “It’s a return on investment issue for me,” she explained. “My gifts express the confidence that I feel about the organization in making wise choices about how to bring evidence and science to the public – which is also a personal agenda that I have.”
“It’s so important to be able to bring the science together, objectively review it, and synthesize that information in ways that are approachable for stakeholders who have to make difficult resource allocations,” Brindis added. “The Academies’ commitment and dedication to this core value of bringing science to public policy is something to which we can all contribute.”
Even before she was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, Bobbie Berkowitz (NAM ’01) volunteered her time and expertise on behalf of many National Academies’ efforts. That commitment has never wavered – most recently, Berkowitz serves on the National Academies’ Report Review Committee. “The Academies have a very special role in society. To have the opportunity to be involved in that? I just never say no!”
But her support of the National Academies doesn’t end there. Berkowitz also makes it a point to regularly contribute to the NAM Annual Fund. Over the years, she said, “I got this inside view of how critical philanthropy is to the Academy.” While funding from government agencies is certainly important, it’s never guaranteed, and it comes with certain restrictions. “The Academy has its own questions it wants to ask.” Philanthropic gifts allow the Academy to do innovative work that might not be supported through other sources.
“[The Academies] have a very unique role within the domain of science and policy. Not only do I think the National Academies’ work is of value, but clearly, the nation values this.” Through giving regularly, she said, “In my own small way, I am ensuring that the National Academies live on.”
Richard Johnston has wasted no time in his 21 years of membership in the National Academy of Medicine. An active member from the start, he has chaired several study committees and helped write influential reports on vaccine safety and other issues. And time and again, Johnston’s generous gifts to the NAM have helped support the institution that he so strongly believes in.
“I believe in the NAM wholeheartedly because I believe in science,” says Johnston, an associate dean and professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “No organization uses science as its basis for decision-making as effectively as the NAM does.”
Working on Academy initiatives taught Johnston what “a true evidence base is. I learned a lot about human psychology in dealing with the public around reports—particularly the certainty that some people have that they know what the truth is, in spite of evidence to the contrary. The NAM is the best counterforce to keep these people from leading others astray in matters of health policy and the practice of medicine.”