On Feb. 13-14, 2008, the AAOS delivered a unique “valentine” to members of Congress…in the form of visits by their constituents—patients, orthopaedic surgeons, and orthopaedic researchers—as part of the annual Research Capitol Hill Days.
They came to Washington, D.C., to meet with their senators and representatives to personally advocate for the future of musculoskeletal care and stress the importance of additional increased research funding. More than 115 orthopaedic patients, physicians, and researchers from across the country had one message: Boost the budget for the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) to $548 million in fiscal year (FY) 2009—a 6.5 percent increase from the FY 2008 level—even though President Bush’s budget didn’t include a funding increase for either NIAMS or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Learning to make their case
In preparation for the congressional meetings, Laura L. Tosi, MD, director of the Bone Health Program at Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC), led a patient-training session. Patient advocates visited the CNMC research lab and other CNMC facilities to get a first-hand look at musculoskeletal research in action. Then everyone—orthopaedic surgeons, researchers, and patient participants—attended a briefing session on what to expect and how to present their requests during their meetings with senators and representatives.
NIAMS Director Stephen I. Katz, MD, PhD, addressed the group on the importance of patient advocacy at an evening reception. Sen. John A. Barrasso, MD, R-Wyo., the first board-certified orthopaedic surgeon in the Senate, also made an appearance and encouraged the advocacy efforts.
120 meetings, 51 members
Before beginning the Valentine’s Day Capitol Hill visits, participants were greeted by Ian Rayder, senior legislative aide for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz, D-Fla. Mr. Rayder encouraged the participants to form relationships with both Congressional representatives and their staff members, in part because staff help to draft legislation and can speak to the importance of musculoskeletal research funding.
Throughout the day, participants attended more than 120 meetings in the House and Senate, meeting with 51 members of various appropriations committees, including the Labor/Health and Human Services (HHS)/Education subcommittees. On the House side, participants visited the offices of Reps. David R. Obey, D-Wis., chair of the House Appropriations Committee; Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I.; Mike Simpson, R-Idaho; and Tom Udall, D-N.M. On the Senate side, attendees visited the offices of Sens. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Pete V. Domenici, R-N.M.; Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas; Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and Frank R. Lautenberg, D-N.J., among others.
At lunch, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., of the House Labor/ HHS/Education appropriations subcommittee, addressed participants and discussed her personal experiences with musculoskeletal care. Rep. DeLauro expressed her commitment to ensuring that the NIH receives the funds needed to continue groundbreaking research studies.
Denis R. Clohisy, MD, chair of the AAOS Research Development Committee, was pleased with the event. “We are working to raise awareness of the chronic, debilitating, and costly musculoskeletal diseases and disorders afflicting our nation, and to request continued support for musculoskeletal research,” said Dr. Clohisy. “If Americans are to be freed from the personal, societal, and financial burdens of musculoskeletal conditions, improved treatments and eventual cures must be found. These innovations require an investment in both basic science and clinical research.”
For more information about the 2008 Research Capitol Hill Days program, visit www.aaos.org/researchdays
Lindsay Law is the communications manager in the AAOS Washington office of government relations. She can be reached at email@example.com
Did you know?
- Musculoskeletal conditions cost the United States $849 billion annually in healthcare services and lost economic productivity? That’s nearly 8 percent of the country’s entire gross domestic product.
- Musculoskeletal conditions account for almost 507.9 million visits to physicians’ offices and 17.5 million hospital discharges annually.
- Nearly one in every three Americans is treated for chronic musculoskeletal impairment or musculoskeletal injury each year.