When you specialize in sexually transmitted infections, people tend to reach out to you. At least, that’s been Christine Johnston’s experience, as a physician and researcher studying genital herpes based at the University of Washington. Prior to starting her fellowship with the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science, her public engagement was mostly reactive, interacting with patients and people concerned they might have genital herpes, and responding to requests for media interviews. She found that patient support group conversations often stimulated research questions about the stigma associated with herpes, questions that wouldn’t have arisen just in the clinical setting, even though the stigma is very connected to clinical impacts.
Ina Park used to think she’d write a popular science book when she retired. Then in January of 2015, a traumatic event, her oldest son being hit by a car, caused her to think harder about how she prioritizes her time. While he is now healthy, she decided not to postpone working on important goals. Shortly afterward, Park also saw the call for the 2017-18 cohort of the AAAS Leshner Leadership Institute for Public Engagement with Science, which was focused on infectious disease – her general area of expertise. Now that Park has pitched her book, acquired an agent and a contract, and learned more about writing a book for public consumption, she sees many potential benefits to tackling this project now while her career is in full swing: it may open other doors for her, and she’s come to think that early or mid-career scientists can also be uniquely inspiring to people.