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PSS Winter '12

BIG IDEAS IN MEDICAL RESEARCH

Julia James ’04 on Revolutionizing Communications between Science and Society

by Melissa Sue Sorrells Galley ’05

Julia James

Julia James '04

While I was at Oxford, I was working on therapies for HIV, however I didn’t interact with patients at all. I felt very far removed from the people I wanted so desperately to help. I wondered why there wasn’t a better way to connect researchers and the public to create a dialogue. I realized, if it didn’t exist, I’d have to help create it.

I want to break down the barriers between researchers and the communities they serve. New therapies come out of labs every day; however among the people those therapies are meant for there is an almost cultural skepticism about science that drowns out all of the other voices. It’s understandable; they’re reacting to some unethical practices of the past, but we have to change the way new technologies are seen by the public, otherwise, what’s the point of creating them?

I see a way–and a real need–to incorporate the public into the research process. There are a lot of great researchers out there who would benefit from a successful integrated approach to engaging the community in their work.

I believe the solution is a new frontier incorporating global health, communications and mentoring. Right now, I am applying to post-doctoral fellowships so that I can pursue this project. In the meantime, I’m working with the largest government-funded mentoring program in the country, which I view as an extension of my field work. I’m learning things every day that will help me begin building an infrastructure for two-way exchange between science and society.

• Outreach Coordinator, New York City Mentoring Program
• Rhodes Scholar (Green Templeton College 2004)
• D.Phil., Immunology and Molecular Medicine, University of Oxford
• Diploma, Integrated Immunology, University of Oxford
• B.S., Chemistry, William Smith College