The Hematologist

March-April 2017, Volume 14, Issue 2

Way to Make a Statement: Government Policy and ASH

Kenneth C. Anderson, MD Kraft Family Professor of Medicine
Harvard Medical School; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA

Published on: March 01, 2017

If you are a long-time ASH member, or a fan of the Headlines from Washington column here in The Hematologist, you are aware that our advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill are core to what ASH does as a society. Member volunteers, leadership, and staff take part in Hill visits, write congressional representatives, and advocate on behalf of hematology as a field, and scientific progress in general. This work is central to ASH’s mission, and our efforts continue to grow.

For major policy events that are seen as having an immediate and sweeping effect upon hematologists and their patients, ASH also delivers statements, sometimes in cooperation with other medical societies. The most recent joint statement issued (see page 3) expressed ASH’s serious concern — along with other hematology and oncology groups — that the Administration’s executive order, limiting or denying U.S. entry to noncitizens, would have a devastating impact on some of our own constituents, many of whom represent some of the best minds in the field, from across the globe. As the statement notes, “we respectfully call on the Administration to consider the negative impact of its executive order on our nation’s ability to attract the world’s best scientific and clinical talent to participate in the fight against cancer and blood diseases, irrespective of their country of origin. This includes those immigrants who are inspired by the opportunity to bring their scientific curiosity and intellect to our country.”

It is undeniable that we are living in a politically contentious time. Therefore, we felt that it might be helpful at this time to offer some insight into what our policy statements are or, more precisely, what they are not:

  • ASH is committed to encouraging and stimulating dialogue on all issues that affect our work, our patients, and scientific progress. To this end, our statements on U.S. government policy are not an attempt to speak for all members of ASH or any specific group; it would be impossible to be nimble if we took the time to survey every member before weighing in on timely matters, such as the recent executive order. Rather, our statements reflect ASH’s core principles of advocating for an environment that supports the advancement of hematology research and the best care of our patients.
  • Policy statements are not aligned with, or preferential toward, any political party. As a nonpartisan organization, ASH has made policy statements during times of both Democratic and Republican Administrations, and has both criticized and praised either, based upon the merits of their specific policies and their effects on our members and their interests as professionals in the field. In the Society’s work on Capitol Hill, it has been critical that we work with both sides of the aisle, and to this point, we have awarded the Public Service Award to Representative David McKinley (R-WV) in 2016, and to Representative Danny K. Davis (D-IL) in 2015. Therefore, it is critical that statements from ASH always be an impartial expression of concerns and a means for creating awareness.
  • Lastly the statements we release do not emerge from a vacuum. We hear from our members on a regular basis, so oftentimes, the statements we make might be the product of feedback we receive — for example, we received a number of calls and email messages concerning the executive order on travel restrictions prior to and since the statement release. Statements from ASH are always moored to the interests of hematologists, and, wherever possible, our opinions are supported by evidence and assessments from expert stakeholders. One area where this is evident is ASH’s statements related to NIH funding levels.

Maintaining a multi-channel dialogue between members, leadership, and staff is a part of what makes our society work. We are committed to openness, and we welcome all opinions on every issue, at any time. The health-care profession and public policy share a complex and enduring connection, making it difficult to separate politics from practice. ASH will continue to use its voice when issues arise affecting hematologists, and we encourage members to do the same.

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