Trainee Council Member Experience
This past October, I was fortunate to be accepted into the ASH 2013 Advocacy Leadership Institute (ALI). The 22 participants were a diverse mix of basic and clinical researchers and practitioners, junior, mid-career, and senior faculty, and malignant and non-malignant hematologists from all over the country.
Having always had a strong interest in politics and healthcare policies, this was a great opportunity to learn more about how to integrate these interests into the field of hematology. The ALI was a two-day workshop during which we had intense discussions on exciting educational topics such as health policy, issues affecting practicing and research-based hematologists, and effective advocacy campaigns. On the second day, we went to Capitol Hill to meet with senators and representatives from our respective states. We advocated for changes to how the Medicare program reimburses physicians and reversal of NIH budget cuts, which limit grant funding vital to our field.
Congress has since acted on these two issues. First, legislation was passed to prevent the scheduled 24 percent cut for Medicare physician services from taking effect on January 1 and to provide for a 0.5 percent increase for Medicare payments for services performed from January 1 through March 31, 2014; Congress continues to work on a plan for a permanent fix. Second, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year (FY) 2014, which appropriated $29.9 billion to the NIH -- a $1 billion (3.5%) increase over the FY 2013 budget after sequestration cuts, but still lower than pre-sequestration levels.
Just as rewarding as government implementation of the changes for which we advocated was the opportunity the ALI provided for the alliance with new friends and colleagues. The skills and experience I obtained during the ALI will be an asset during my career. I highly encourage trainees to get involved with hematology advocacy by signing up for the ASH Grassroots Network to be kept informed of key developments in issues critical to hematologic research and practice through the monthly “ASH Advocacy Update” newsletter and regular “Action Alerts” on legislative issues on which members are invited to contact their elected federal officials and lend their voices to issues important to the future of hematology. Moreover, consider nominating yourself or a colleague for the 2014 Advocacy Leadership Institute. The next ALI will be held this fall, with nominations beginning in early summer.