Interview with the Honorable Constance A. Morella

Richard Lui of MSNBC interviews the Honorable Constance A. Morella, Former U.S. Representative. Among her many contributions to science, she led the effort to require that women are included in NIH-supported clinical research, opening the door to discoveries and treatments..


Richard Lui: Another conversation here, and we are at BrightFocus Foundation’s gala at the Embassy of Italy here at Washington D.C., it’s an annual gala. My name is Richard Lui with MSNBC. I’m a news anchor there and I’m volunteering for tonight, and I get to talk to some really cool people along the way, and I happen to bump into this cool person, and I want to introduce her properly first. This is Connie Morella. She served as a member of Congress for the state of Maryland for no less than sixteen years. She also was an ambassador of OECD in Paris. These are just some of the things she’s done, and, Representative, first, thanks for being here. You’re being honored—she’s also being honored here tonight by the way. She’s getting an award for very good reason, and we’re going to get in that very shortly. So, if you got three minutes together, what does it feel like to get the award tonight?

Contance Morella: I am very humbled getting the award. I really feel like I want to give the award to all the people who are here because they care about research, they care about where it leads. You know, the cure, the eyes, the mind. And they all come with stories, they come with stories from their family, from relatives, from people they know and what they observe.

Richard Lui: And that’s a really good point here Representative because we’re her addressing big issues for Americans, for humans, for people. Alzheimer’s, as well as macular degeneration, and in addition to that, glaucoma— big, big things to tackle. You were very early on in your career. The NIH is really a great example where you were ahead of your time, and you’re ahead of your time for very many reasons, number one you were looking for health equity of in men and women. Talk about that and more of what you did back then.

Contance Morella: Well, you must also know Mr. Lui that I represented the National Institute of Health and the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Walter Reed was in [inaudible], so I had good reason, my constituents were there, I knew what they were doing, and because I’m one who was brought into politics because the women’s movement put the movement in me, so when I saw that NIH had flunked the test for gender equity I looked into it with several of my colleagues, bipartisan, bicameral, and ultimately we were able to get into legislation an office of research on women’s health. Prior to that, women were not included in clinical trials of protocol. We were like, near men, and in fact even the research was done with male rats.

Richard Lui: Wow.

Contance Morella: —so, when you think about that—

Richard Lui: Right.

Contance Morella: —the differences.

Richard Lui: Very quickly then, when you see what’s happening today, across the country the idea of “times up” and “me too” and a real big push towards gender equity—He’s just passing through, good to see you—that’s fine, that’s fine—this is live, I love this stuff, happens to me on stage all the time—[Laughs] But when you look at what’s happening today with “me too” and “times up,” a broader understanding of men and women that gender equity is important, what’s your reflection on that? Because you were very early on focusing on something that’s so important for health.

Contance Morella: My reflection is that, not only it’s about time, but it enhances quality of life, quantity of life, it enhances opportunity, it elevates the economy—I mean, it’s a win-win proposition for business, the community, education, and so I’m proud to see that we’ve been making some progress. We still have a way to go!

Richard Lui: I like that, so it’s kind of, a “no duh” moment, right? As you work towards future solutions what do you look forward to in the next two to five years either in this space, which we’re here today talking about healthcare, talking about major diseases that we’re trying to conquer as a country and as a community really, what are you looking forward to?

Contance Morella: I’m looking forward to a number of things. First of all, that when women are interested in science, engineering, medicine, running for president, no one will say that this is a woman, they’ll say that this is a candidate with talent, opportunities. I’m looking for that and I’m looking for what BrightFocus is doing. The money that goes into this research brings results. And my point, Mr. Lui, is that scientists need legislators, legislators need scientists, we need to work together, just like the country does.

Richard Lui: Well we need more of you—I guess she may have just been announcing she’s going to run for president, I don’t know—we’re so funny, I mean, I’m a big of hers, she’s calling me Mr. Lui because I’m calling her Representative—[Laughs]—it’s a little joke that we had because she wanted me to call her Connie and she calls me Richard but we go back way, way back, at least what, thirty minutes now?

Contance Morella: [Laughing] Yes, and so therefore, would you be my lieutenant? [Laughs]

Richard Lui: [Laughing] I will vow to—

Contance Morella: —My Vice President?

Richard Lui: There you go, there you go. With your sort of success rate, I’m in. So one of our honorees here again tonight, the BrightFocus Foundation gala, Connie Morella, long term public servant, really congratulations again and tune in later on, we’ll have more stuff here, thanks for following along with us.

Contance Morella: And thank you.

This content was first posted on: June 12, 2019
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