This assistant professor discussed the benefits of an increase in biomedical research federal funding with members of Congress.
Fernanda Rosa never dreamed she would live in Texas one day, much less be meeting members of Congress in Washington D.C.
She is an assistant professor of immunology with Texas Tech University's School of Veterinary Medicine who immigrated to the U.S. from Brazil when she was 21 years old to pursue an education in animal science. Her teaching focuses on veterinary immunology and topics in nutritional immunology.
“I wanted to be in a position where I could combine my background in animal health with my experience working with children's health and do more a comparative type of approach towards improving health,” she said. “So this position at the vet school in Amarillo was a perfect fit for me. Through our One Health Ph.D. program, I can combine my comparative approach from animals to humans, from humans to animals.”
As part of her professional endeavors, Rosa joined the American Association of Immunologists (AAI), which hosts a national conference each year. She was awarded the Early Career Travel Award by the AAI, which covered her travel costs to the conference last month. Additionally, she received the opportunity to present her research about microRNAs in bovine milk and their impact on calves' health – a project that just received a $290,000 grant by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Rosa also was invited to represent the AAI during its Capitol Hill Day. She joined a group of five other faculty members representing Texas to educate members of Congress about the benefits of an increase of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) research funding for the next fiscal year.
“We explained what type of research we do in Texas and why federal funding is really important for our institutions and students,” Rosa said. “Without that funding, we cannot get ready for the next pandemic. We do not have the ability to study and develop vaccines or any treatments, drugs, etc.”
In Rosa's experience, sometimes it takes two or three years studying one aspect of a topic to develop a solution to improve health. That is why she believes federal funding is essential to run all the basic mechanistic studies that happen behind the scenes.
“Without the federal funding, we can't do research and we can't have new discoveries,” she said. “For example, when I have the federal funding, I can also pay technicians with that funding. I can support the students and help pay their tuitions and fees.”
This was the first time Rosa had ever had the opportunity to educate members of Congress about the benefits of federally funded research. She considers the experience an honor.
“They were all very welcoming and very supportive,” she said. “We met mostly with the staff, but they affirmed to us the representatives and senators were already aware of this recommendation to increase the NIH research budget. And all of them were very supportive of that recommendation.”
Rosa's new goal is to join the AAI Committee on Public Affairs, which has more frequent discussions with members of Congress about science research and funding.
“Since I am with the vet school, I want to bring more veterinary medicine to the national conference, because historically, it has been more the human aspect of immunology,” she said.
If Rosa's educational outreach can help secure more NIH funding for Texas, she hopes one of her projects at the School of Veterinary Medicine will receive that opportunity to grow.
“It's beneficial for everyone,” she said. “The institution, research, students and the health of this planet in general.”