AST Public Policy Committee Members Deliver Key Messages Directly to Decision-Makers on Capitol Hill

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On September 24th & 25th, AST's Public Policy Committee descended on Capitol Hill and met with more than a dozen Members of Congress in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. A majority of the meetings were with the actual Senators and Congressmen themselves. 

The two primary purposes for AST's visits with members of Congress was to: 1) garner further support for federal funding of NIH and medical research; as well as 2) strengthen support and cosponsors for the Transplant Patient Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Patients Act of 2013. The Society's leaders also discussed living donation legislative proposals and the HOPE Act...which seeks to reverse a decades old ban and pave the way for organ donations from individuals who are HIV positive. Some results of the Congressional meetings were felt immediately as the Society secured several new legislative cosponsors for legislation supported by the AST.

All of the meetings were strategically focused on those Members of Congress that play significant leadership roles and serve on congressional committees that have oversight of organ transplantation and AST's public policy agenda. Two examples of this strategy included meetings with the actual Deputy Senate Majority Leader himself, Dick Durbin (D-IL), as well as Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), one of the strongest supporters of NIH funding and medical research in the U.S. Senate. Senator Durbin, of course, is our AST Senate lead champion on the kidney patient immuno transplant legislation. The Public policy Committee also met with the office of the Speaker of the U.S. House Representatives John Boehner (R-OH) and the Co-Chairman of the Congressional Physicians Caucus, Congressman Dr. Michael Burgess (R-TX). AST testified before Congressman Burgess' Energy & Commerce Committee earlier this summer.

AST's Public Policy Committee also took members of the group into meet with their individual Members of Congress representing the medical institutions and transplant centers where they work. These meetings included actual face-to-face conversations with:

  • Senator Bob Casey (D-PA),
  • Senator John Tester (D-MT),
  • Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC),
  • Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO), and
  • Congresswoman Renee Ellmers (R-NC).

The time in Capitol Hill was very fruitful and resulted in increases support for AST legislative and regulatory priorities. The Congressional meetings also further raise the visibility of the Society and strengthen its reputation as the go-to policy experts for all things transplantation.

Last week, AST members were also on Capitol Hill representing the Society as part of the "Rally for Medical Research". Leaders from the Society's Research Community of Practice (CoP) represented the field of transplantation during the national rally that includes 180 organizations on Capitol Hill. AST leaders arranged and participated in more than a dozen targeted Congressional leaders.