Thursday, April 12, 2012

Different voices at public hearing help CIRM focus on the future

It’s never easy to hear people criticize you in public, particularly when you think some of the criticism is misguided or just downright wrong. But while it’s never fun to hear those kinds of comments, it can be very instructive and even enlightening to see how others see you.

On Tuesday, April 10 the Institute of Medicine (IOM) held a public meeting at Irvine in Southern California to hear from a variety of people who have perspectives on CIRM, some good, some not so good.
(webcast audio recordings of the meeting are now available: Morning Session | Afternoon Session: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4)

The hearing was part of the independent assessment that CIRM asked the IOM to carry out to look into our programs, operations, strategies and performance since its creation in 2005. Previous hearings have featured people who had positive things to say about the agency. The first half of this latest hearing was a little less easy on the ear with several people expressing their concerns about the agency, but it was clearly important for the members of the IOM to hear those opinions.

Changing for the better

What was most interesting, and encouraging, was that even those who were most critical of CIRM admitted that things were clearly changing for the better, that over the past year the agency was working in a more open and transparent way and responding to some of the criticisms of its early years.

We can all learn from our experience and do a better job as a result of them. CIRM is doing that and clearly we still have work to do. Hearing from our critics helps us understand how some others see us and what kinds of misperceptions are out there. Knowing what people are saying helps push us to do a better job of communicating, explaining what we are doing and why.

Focused on the future

But the IOM hearing was far from being all negative. The afternoon session featured four researchers who are using CIRM-funding to help drive their work. It was an exciting and enlightening presentation, a reminder of what we are really here to do, and of the progress that is being made and the benefits that patients and the people of California are already seeing.


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