By Lyle Dennis, Cavarocchi – Ruscio – Dennis Associates, Consultants to AASLD
There are a lot of component parts that go into AASLD’s efforts to influence the federal government to do things (or not do things) related to liver research, clinical practice and medical education. Among them are educating the membership on the issues; participating in Washington, DC-based coalitions such as the Coalition for Health Funding, the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, the Friends of the VA, the Deadliest Cancers Coalition, and others; and, leadership meetings with NIH, CDC, VA and other agencies.
But one of the largest efforts revolves around what we have branded as Liver Capitol Hill Day (LCHD).
This year, LCHD will be held on Wednesday, April 18 and it will be the Tenth Annual. But the work to organize is already well underway. CRD Associates runs days like this for many clients, but LCHD has some special twists. First, AASLD members that participate are asked to bring a patient with them, if possible. The combination of a doctor and patient meeting with their congressperson and senators’ offices can be particularly powerful and leave a lasting impression.
In addition to the individual patients, several years ago we began including patient advocacy groups in our visits on Capitol Hill. Last year, six organizations participated with AASLD. They were given the opportunity to participate in the development of the agenda (handled by the Public and Clinical Policy Committee (PCPC). They all sign a Memorandum of Understanding that outlines their responsibility to adhere to that agenda and register their members who are attending.
And, finally (and most importantly), many AASLD members participate. At the urging of Dr. Ron Sokol, the Board last year adopted some mandatory participation requirements for Board members, committee and SIG chairs, PCPC members, and others. As a result, our total entourage on the Hill rose from less than 60 in 2016 to more than 110 participants (including a cadre of AASLD staff for the first time) in 2017.
Participants are divided into small teams (no one goes alone unless they want to!) to meet with their representatives in Washington. The meetings are most often with staffers who handle health issues, but we do get meetings with elected officials as well. Each meeting can last from 15 to 30 minutes, or more. Everyone will get a minimum of three meetings, with most getting four or five meetings.
One of the most common reactions to participation in LCHD – before doing it – is that I don’t know anything about the government, I am a scientist and a doctor. But in fact you have a great deal of knowledge and this is an ideal way to impart that knowledge to persons who are making decisions every day that impact your research, your practice, your students, and your patients. In fact, at the end of the day, words we hear most often are “fun,” “interesting,” “inspiring,” and “see you again next year!”
Registration for Liver Capitol Hill Day is now open. To join your fellow liver advocates, please contact Greg Bologna at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will see you on April 18.