Delegation teams visited more than 115 congressional offices
An impressive delegation of 72 orthopaedic surgeons, researchers, and patients visited Capitol Hill en masse March 29 to call for a 6.7 percent increase for medical research funding at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). The visits with U.S. senators, representatives, and their staffs were part of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ (AAOS) annual Research Capitol Hill (RCH) Days program, held March 28-29, 2007, in Washington, D.C. The NIAMS funding request has been endorsed by the 22 orthopaedic specialty societies comprising the AAOS Board of Specialty Societies, as well as the Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation.
This year, the doctor-patient advocacy delegations were sponsored by the AAOS and six specialty societies—American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine, American Shoulder and Elbow Surgeons, American Society for Surgery of the Hand, North American Spine Society, Orthopaedic Research Society, and Orthopaedic Trauma Association. Specialty society sponsorship enables the AAOS to expand the program’s capacity and allows for a wider representation of patient conditions.
Musculoskeletal research “in action”
The 2007 RCH event kicked off with a trip to Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, for a specialized, patient-focused training session.
Kristy L. Weber, MD—an AAOS member clinician-scientist—coordinated the efforts of her research team to give the RCH patient advocates a unique opportunity to observe the way musculoskeletal research is conducted. The patients toured the JHU cancer/bone biology lab and the nerve studies lab and participated in sessions on biomechanics and spine research.
Later that day, the orthopaedic surgeons and researchers joined the patient advocates for a group training session, which included a welcome from AAOS President James H. Beaty, MD, sessions on the advocacy and appropriations processes, and an overview of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIAMS by Wilma Peterman-Cross, deputy director of the NIAMS Office of Science Policy and Planning. At a dinner reception that night, NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz, MD, PhD, spoke about the importance of NIAMS research and patient advocacy.
115 congressional visits in one day
Once on the Hill, physician-patient delegations representing more than 30 states met with members of Congress to share their stories and educate the legislators about the enormous impact that musculoskeletal conditions have on America’s healthcare system. Among the statistics they shared was that in 2003 alone, musculoskeletal-related conditions accounted for 157 million visits to physicians’ offices, 29 million visits to emergency departments, and 15 million visits to hospital outpatient departments.
Throughout the day, delegation teams visited more than 115 congressional offices, including more than 35 members of House and Senate appropriations committees.
Sen. Arlen Specter’s welcome
During a special luncheon, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) personally welcomed the group to Capitol Hill. Sen. Specter is the Ranking Member of the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees federal funding for the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Under his leadership, the budget for the NIH doubled over the course of the last decade. Sen. Specter expressed his support for increased research funding, noting that advanced medical research helps improve the lives of patients living with orthopaedic conditions.
Through the RCH program and other initiatives, the AAOS and its orthopaedic specialty society partners will continue to ensure that members of Congress keep musculoskeletal research a high priority on the U.S. political and fiscal agenda.
The 2008 Research Capitol Hill Days program will take place Feb. 13-14, 2008. For more information on the 2008 program, contact Christy M.P. Gilmour, AAOS manager, medical research, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (847) 384-4323, or visit the RCH Web site at www.aaos.org/researchdays