Wescott Strategic Communications Launches Science Advisory Committee

Wescott Strategic Communications (WSC) announced the formation of a science advisory committee, bringing together some of today’s brightest scientists and science communicators to help clients discuss the most complex and challenging topics with stakeholders. 

“Science needs a PR strategy, and public relations should make science more accessible and relevant to an audience,” said Leigh Ann Simmons Ph.D., chair of the new committee. “Science touches every part of commerce and every part of life.  Businesses can no longer avoid the discussion about the science behind their products. Of course, scientists also need effective, credible ambassadors and allies from the corporate world. We want to help make that happen."

The committee features a diverse group of professionals with experience in scientific discovery, policy, outreach, and communication. Members of the committee lend their specific expertise to help WSC develop strategies and tactics for clients.  The committee will also provide input on the company’s charitable giving and service work. 

“I’m very grateful for Leigh Ann’s leadership and for the entire committee’s enthusiasm and professionalism,” said David Wescott, Principal at WSC.  “Each member of the committee has outstanding credentials and unique talent.  The communications industry has never seen a roster or an approach quite like this.” 

Committee members include:

Leigh Ann Simmons, Ph.D. (chair). Dr. Simmons is an Associate Professor in the Duke University School of Nursing. A former NIH Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health scholar, Dr. Simmons has published extensively and presented nationally and internationally in the areas of women’s health disparities, prenatal and postpartum health behaviors, personalized health care, and health care policy. Her current research focuses on designing and evaluating health behavior change interventions to prevent and manage obesity and depression among women who experience health disparities due to rural residence, racial/ethnic identity, and socioeconomic status. She has a specific interest in interventions that employ health coaching, technology, and –omics-based personalization. Between 2005-2010 Dr. Simmons served as a Health Disparities Scholar through the NIH Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities. In 2003 she worked as a Congressional Fellow on the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA). She currently serves as the chair of the public policy and advocacy working group for the Duke Center for Applied Genomics and Personalized Medicine. In addition to her academic pursuits, Dr. Simmons maintains a private coaching and consulting practice, where she provides individual coaching to women seeking to improve their health, trains healthcare providers in health coaching, and advises medical practices on strategies to address health behavior change in their clinical populations.    

Veronica Arreola, MPA. Veronica I. Arreola is a professional feminist, writer, and mom. She took her degree in biological sciences with a minor in women’s studies and turned it into a career working on diversity issues in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Veronica is the assistant director of the UIC Center for Research on Women and Gender and directs their Women in Science and Engineering program. Veronica's work on behalf of women and girls has been recognized by her coworkers with a UIC Woman of the Year award, the community with a Chicago Foundation for Women Impact Award and the White House with an organizational Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. Her blog, Viva la Feminista, has been named a top political blog by BlogHer, Women’s Media Center and LATISM. Veronica’s writing can be found in outlets such as USA Today, New York Times, Bitch Media and Ms. Magazine. Earlier this year she joined the board of directors of Bitch Media. Her current project, #365FeministSelfie, aims to have people take a close look at themselves every day and see the beauty everyone else sees.

Raychelle Burks, Ph.D. Dr. Burks is an analytical chemist and visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Doane College. She specializes in applying scientific principles to stories and trends in popular culture. She serves as a host of Reactions, the video series of the American Chemical Society. She also founded the DIY Science Zone at GeekGirlCon.  Dr. Burks' writing has appeared in publications such as Time, The Washington Post, and Slate. She was named one of the "must-follow feeds in the world of science" by Wired Magazine. She also serves on the advisory board of Undark, a science magazine set to launch in April 2016.  Dr. Burks earned her PhD in chemistry from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

Jason Carlyon, Ph.D.  Dr. Carlyon is an associate professor of microbiology and immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine.  He studies how bacteria transmitted by ticks and chiggers cause disease in humans.  Dr. Carlyon has served on the editorial board of Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology and on the board of directors of the American Society for Rickettsiology.  He received his PhD in microbiology from Virginia Commonwealth University and held a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale University.  Prior to joining the faculty at VCU Dr. Carlyon was an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky. 

Jeanne Garbarino, Ph.D. Dr. Garbarino is the Director of the Science Outreach Program at The Rockefeller University. In this role, Jeanne connects K-12 communities with authentic biomedical research experiences in a way that is hands on, engaging, and fun. This includes an annual science festival for kids, called Science Saturday, which draws over 1,000 participants from the NYC community. In addition, Jeanne spearheads the Learning At the Bench (LAB) Initiative, providing biomedical research opportunities with multiple access points to engage the diverse population of students and teachers in the NYC area. Jeanne received her PhD in nutritional and metabolic biology from Columbia University, and expanded her training as a postdoc in the Laboratory of Biochemical Genetics and Metabolism at The Rockefeller University. Jeanne has also worked as a science communicator, having written for Scientific American, Nature, and the Huffington Post. You can find Jeanne on Twitter and Instagram as @JeanneGarb. You can follow the Science Outreach Program on social media through the #RockEdu hashtag or @Rockedu_ handle.

Sheril Kirshenbaum, MS. Sheril is director of The Energy Poll at The University of Texas at Austin. She is also executive director of ScienceDebate, a non-profit initiative working toward a presidential debate on science and technology policy.  Sheril co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as a top recommended read. She is also the author of The Science of Kissing. Sheril blogs at Scientific American. She is a 2015 Presidential Leadership Scholar; an initiative launched by four presidential centers to foster growth in a diverse group of leaders.  She holds graduate degrees in marine biology and policy. 

Sallie Permar, M.D. Ph.D. Dr. Permar is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics and Microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine.  She is a translational pediatric physician-scientist with the ultimate goal of improving the health of young children by reducing the incidence of congenital and perinatal viral infections.  Her clinical and research endeavors focus on development and implementation of innovative immunologic prevention and treatment strategies aimed at reducing perinatal human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections, giving all infants a healthy start to life. Dr. Permar has received several prestigious young investigator awards for her accomplishments in the area of HIV and CMV research, including: the Society for Pediatric Research Young Investigator Award in 2014, the Duke Williams Clinical Research Award in 2014, and the Presidential Early Career Award in Science at Engineering (PECASE) in 2012.  

Alana Shaikh, MPH. Alanna Shaikh is an international development consultant based in Cairo, Egypt; she focuses on helping small NGOs achieve big impacts. Her experience includes work with USAID and the UN as well as NGOs and private companies involved in international development. She is the author of What's Killing Us: A Practical Guide to Understanding Our Biggest Global Health Problems,published by TEDbooks in 2012, and currently writes about global health and development for UN Dispatch, Global Dashboard, and her own blog, Blood and Milk (bloodandmilk.org).  Alanna is a senior TED Fellow, and she holds an MPH from Boston University.

Melanie Tannenbaum, Ph.D. Dr. Tannenbaum serves as Chief Communications Science Officer at Wescott Strategic Communications.  She earned her Ph.D and M.A. in social psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Her research focuses on the science of persuasion and motivation regarding political, health-related, and environmental behavior. She is a regular contributor to the PsySociety blog at Scientific American.  She has also contributed to In-Mind Magazine and the British Psychological Society Research Digest. She is also an award-winning social psychology instructor, teaching at the University of Nevada-Reno and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.