AAMC 2014: From Bench to Bedside to Community: Communicating the Excitement of Science in Medicine's Frontiers

Nov 9, 2014 7:30 PM

How we communicate evolves as we learn, grow and become more sophisticated. The same scientists whose scholarly beginnings started with See Spot Run and Green Eggs and Ham publish papers with titles like, “Inhibition of mTORC-1 mediated translational elongation in colorectal cancer prevention and therapy.”

There’s nothing wrong with using language that only a small number of people understand. It’s an efficient and precise way to communicate with one’s peers.

But if the scientific community expects policy makers, potential funding partners, students and the public to understand and support their work, they would do well to take a page from good ol', Dr. Seuss.

Such was the challenge issued Sunday by University of Utah’s Senior Vice President of Health Sciences, Vivian Lee, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., moderator of an afternoon panel at the Association of American Medical Colleges annual conference in Chicago.

Lee opened the session with a video produced to showcase the Utah Genome Project, a genome sequencing and analysis initiative to discover new disease-causing genes and to develop new diagnostic tools and therapies. To bring the complicated subject home for patients and families, the University framed the story as being about the possibility of outliving your family history, Lee explained before introducing three academics with stories to tell about breast cancer: 

  • Clodia Osipo, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Pathology, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
  • Olufunmilayo Olopade, M.D., FACP, Walter L. Palmer distinguished service professor in medicine and human genetics at the University of Chicago Medicine
  • Kent Hoskins, M.D., associate professor of medicine, hematology and oncology at the University of Illinois at Chicago 

After each of the researchers described their work with breast cancer and their communication goals, Lee asked attendees to come up with a minute-long description, or “elevator speech,” to describe it to various audiences, such as the media or donors.

By: Kirsten Stewart

Kirsten Stewart is a senior writer for University of Utah Health Sciences.