There have been multiple, excellent professional arguments made for not cutting the budget at the National Institutes of Health. In their own words, the NIH does the following:
NIH is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world, investing more than $30 billion in taxpayer dollars to achieve its mission to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. In pursuing this mission, NIH improves health by promoting treatment and prevention, contributes to society by driving economic growth and productivity, and expands the biomedical knowledge base by funding cutting-edge research and cultivating the biomedical workforce of today and tomorrow.
My reasoning is personal. The NIH has saved my life at least twice, and I am absolutely terrified of losing that safety net. I think of the other patients I saw and met while I was there, and I fear for them as well. What will become of us? Who will fight for us, for our health and our ability to live some kind of worthwhile life?
Four years ago, my doctors and I finally discovered a secondary illness, GI tract fungal infections, that were causing a myriad of problems. After a great deal of research online, I found a clinical study at the NIH and sent the doctor in charge an email. This seemingly small moment in time completely changed my life. Within a few months, I was diagnosed with an extremely rare genetic disorder, had been an inpatient in Bethesda, and was doing much better. My doctors finally had the help they so desperately needed to help me.
The fungal study I am part of is a ten year research term. In exchange for world-class medical care and treatment, I and my family have contributed to surveys, questionnaires, blood testing, genetic sequencing, and more. I am always grateful to be part of this, but I also realize I am contributing to science and the advancement of understanding and treatment for many other patients. Fungal infections affect HIV/AIDS patients, chemo patients, and other immunocompromised individuals. I may not be able to go out and change the world with my business degree, but perhaps I can help affect something positive for someone, somewhere, by participating here.
My specific genetic disease has approximately five hundred known cases worldwide. As with so many other rare diseases, no private sector company is going to spend time and money studying or developing drugs to diagnose or treat it. The advantage at the NIH is they see the bigger picture; while they treat my condition, they can learn about aspects of it that negatively affect others with different illnesses. They have all of the specialists under the same roof to coordinate and collaborate. We joked repeatedly while I was there; it was like an episode of House, only multiplied by ten and in real life. It is astonishing what they are able to accomplish as a non-profit, grant-driven hospital.
I cannot imagine what a twenty percent cut to the NIH’s budget would do. Would they still be able to react swiftly to a case of ebola? I doubt it. What if some other disease crops up? The health and wellbeing of people should damn well be important to making this country great. I am fortunate to be part of the NIH family, and I do not intend to give up my place without a fight. This is my life. This is the lives of so many people, most of whom would not be alive today if we did not already, innately come into the world prepared to do battle.
I will not give up. I would not be alive today if I knew how.