December 2011

A shot in the arm for outreach

ASBMB members tackle the public’s questions about the flu 


Last month the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology partnered with the Rockville (Md.) Science Center to co-sponsor an event dubbed “Flu Fest.” The event, which included a public discussion on the science of the flu and offered free flu shots to local residents, was held Nov. 16 at the Universities at Shady Grove.

One of the discussion leaders was ASBMB member Barney Graham of the National Institutes of Health Vaccine Research Center, who stressed to members of the public the importance of getting vaccinated.

“The [flu] vaccine really does work,” he said, crediting vigilant vaccination campaigns for the low mortality rate during the 2009 H1N1 outbreak in particular.


Anna Ramsey-Ewing, who also works at the NIH, focused on a similar theme in her presentation, pointing out historical examples of diseases tamed through vaccination. Ramsey-Ewing also responded to questions from participants, allaying audience members’ fears about getting the flu from the shot and debunking stories suggesting a possible link between vaccines and autism.

For the event organizers, the discussions exemplified the type of public outreach that is becoming increasingly prominent among scientists.

ASBMB member Ed Eisenstein, who is a professor at the Universities of Shady Grove and who serves on the board of trustees of the Rockville Science Center, praised the event as “another wonderful example of ASBMB working with our community to increase their interest and awareness of the science and technology underlying health care.”

ASBMB staffer Geoff Hunt, who headed up ASBMB’s part in the event, echoed Eisenstein’s sentiments: “The presenters enjoyed interacting with nonscientists, and the audience asked really insightful questions. Hopefully, Flu Fest will serve as a catalyst for future ASBMB outreach events.”

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