Navigating Science Policy as a Medical Doctor: Strategies for Engaging Beyond the Clinic

28 Feb 2024

By Sewar Banimusa, MS3

In the realm of healthcare, the influence of medical doctors transcends the boundaries of clinical
settings. Beyond diagnosing ailments and administering treatments, there lies a realm where
medical professionals wield the power to shape policies that profoundly impact the health and
well-being of entire populations. Engaging in science policy empowers medical doctors to
harness their expertise and advocate for evidence-based solutions to pressing health challenges.

Science policy encompasses the intersection of science, technology, and society – guiding
decisions that affect research funding, healthcare delivery, public health initiatives, and regulatory frameworks. For physicians, involvement in science policy represents an opportunity to contribute to the greater good and drive positive change beyond individual patient interactions.

Navigating the landscape of science policy can seem daunting at first, but there are numerous opportunities to start navigating your passion. Here are some ways to start your science policy career:

Joining professional organizations dedicated to health policy and advocacy provides a platform
for networking, learning, and collective action. Attending science policy related events and
seeking mentorship from seasoned advocates can provide invaluable guidance and support.
These organizations bring together enthusiasts, students, researchers, and early career professionals as well as senior experts in one setting to openly ask questions, learn, and share resources. Engaging with scientists from different fields and learning more about how they tackle problems in healthcare, climate change, ocean policy, and science diplomacy can link different fields together to start thinking of solutions and reporting research in these fields through science communication. This can be done by writing a blog post or an Op-Ed, starting a campaign, or handling your own project as a scientist!

Some of these organizations are:

  • The National Science Policy Network (NSPN) is an association of civically engaged individuals and local chapters committed to strengthening the role of science in society. It provides education and training in Science Policy, Communication, Advocacy, Diplomacy, Equity, and Inclusion.
  • AAAS is an inclusive, mobilized, and global scientific community that ignites, enables, and celebrates scientific excellence and science-informed decisions and actions.
  • National Academy of Medicine (NAM) is one of three academies that make up the National Academies. It works to advance science, inform policy, and catalyze action to achieve human health, equity, and well-being.

Policy for Science: To effectively engage in science policy, medical doctors must build
relationships with policymakers across all government levels. By establishing themselves as
credible experts, doctors can shape policy decisions affecting healthcare systems, public health,
and research priorities. Clear communication of key messages, along with emphasizing the real world impacts of policy choices, can drive significant change.

Research for Policy: Medical scientists leverage research skills to inform evidence-based policy decisions, translating complex findings into actionable recommendations. Through conducting studies, analyzing data, and synthesizing research, physicians offer a unique perspective that shapes policy debates and legislative agendas, bridging the gap between research and practice.

Engaging in Advocacy and Outreach: Whether writing op-eds, participating in advocacy
campaigns, or meeting with elected officials, scientists in the medical field can lend their voices to advocacy efforts aimed at promoting health equity, expanding access to care, and addressing
emerging health threats.

Staying Informed and Educated: In a rapidly evolving landscape, staying informed is essential
for effective science policy engagement. Medical doctors should actively seek out opportunities
to stay abreast of current policy issues, trends, and developments. Subscribing to policy
newsletters, following reputable organizations on social media, and attending policy-focused
conferences and workshops can provide valuable insights and networking opportunities. One example is Commissions from The Lancet that collaborates with academic partners to pinpoint critical issues in science, medicine, and global health, aiming to offer recommendations
that reshape health policies and enhance practices.

As medical professionals, our unique blend of expertise, compassion, and dedication drives us to improve health outcomes for all. By broadening our engagement in science policy, we amplify our impact, advocating for policies that serve the common good and shape a healthier future.

Despite the stress of medical school, I eagerly anticipate using my professional judgment to aid others, navigating a path filled with both anticipation and pressure. Throughout this journey, I remain committed to exploring new interests, cultivating passions, and expanding my scientific knowledge. I actively seek opportunities to collaborate with peers, whether to take breaks from studies, participate in community projects, or connect with like-minded individuals.

Sewar Banimusa is an M.D. candidate at Yarmouk University, Jordan, with a keen interest in neurosurgery. Eager to specialize in this field, she aims to contribute significantly to patient care through her understanding of the intricate workings of the nervous system. Alongside her academic pursuits, Sewar is deeply involved in pioneering innovations in regenerative scientific research, synthetic biology, and robotics applications within medicine. Currently, she serves as the Professional Development Coordinator at the Science Diplomacy Committee at NSPN, where she advocates for open science and diplomacy to ensure accessibility and inclusivity in the field. Passionate about promoting youth engagement in healthcare innovation and policy, especially in low-resource settings, she actively contributes to student associations. Beyond her professional endeavors, Sewar finds joy in exploring nature, flâneuring, and sharing the delight of baking with friends.

One Reply to “Navigating Science Policy as a Medical Doctor: Strategies for Engaging Beyond the Clinic”

  1. It’s refreshing to see ambitious and eager medical students seeking opportunities and participate in society for the goal of learning. As a colleague of doctor sewar, I am really impressed of what she has accomplished while still studying medicine despite all the challenges medical students face during their career.
    Well done DR. Sewar Banimusa

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