The Dean of Northwestern's medical school, Dr. Eric Neilson, penned an outstanding op-ed in today's Chicago Tribune on the societal benefits of federally-funded medical research. It's a must-read. Ultimately, medical research is about improving quality of life. As Dr. Neilson describes, the benefits of medical and public health research have been mind-boggling. For those who claim that medical care is already too expensive, and that cutting federal research budgets will lower health care costs, think again. A 2011 report by the American Association of Medical Colleges showed that a federal investment of $15.6 billion in research funds to medical schools returned $45 billion in economic impact. That's an amazing return. And this report is just one of many that demonstrate investments in research are a primary driver of the US economy. It's also worth mentioning that federal investments in medical research aren't all about drugs, devices, and new techniques. A big chunk of the budget goes to training tomorrow's physicians and scientists. Dial this spigot down and you lose not only funding for current R&D, but the brains that will make new discoveries for decades to come. The bottom line is that federal research budgets are strained and legislators are looking for places to cut. Investments in medical research should not be one of these places.