NAEVR and ARVO Represented by Young Investigators at the Rally for Medical Research Advocacy Day 2014
NAEVR representative Adiv Johnson, Ph.D. with National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D. at a pre-Advocacy Day reception
On September 18, as Congress was acting on a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the government in Fiscal Year (FY) 2015, hundreds of medical researchers visited Capitol Hill offices to voice their concern about National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding during Rally for Medical Research Advocacy Day 2014 (see box below for Rally history). NAEVR and ARVO joined with more than 300 partnering organizations in participating in the event, adding the perspective from the vision community about the value of National Eye Institute (NEI)-funded research. The 300-plus advocates visited 211 Congressional offices, which included meetings with 90 Members.
NAEVR was represented by ARVO member Adiv Johnson, Ph.D., a Research Fellow in the Ophthalmology Department at the Mayo Clinic who studies the genetic basis of eye disease to understand the mechanisms by which disease-causing mutations result in vision loss and blindness from retinal degeneration. He visited Minnesota delegation offices, including Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Al Franken (D-MN) and Cong. Tim Walz. ARVO was represented by Matt Windsor, Ph.D., a young researcher who currently serves as ARVOs Manager of Advocacy and Outreach and who visited Maryland delegation offices which included Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and Cong. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Budget Committee who has the NIH campus located in his district.
Of the 300-plus advocates, only about 25 were young researchers, so Drs. Johnson and Windsor had especially impactful stories to tell about the impact of budget cuts. Dr. Johnson reported that:
Since I was the only individual representing a vision organization in my group, I mentioned the value of vision research funded by the NEI, which several Members echoed back. Because of this, I felt that my presence at the Rally was impactful. It was fruitful to remind policymakers about the prevalence of eye disease and the dire need for increased NEI funds to accelerate therapies for low vision and blindness. It was also rewarding to use my scientific background to participate and gain insight into the realm of science and politics. I would highly encourage other researchers to participate in future Rally events, as their expertise would be appreciated on Capitol Hill.
Earlier that day, Dr. Johnson participated in the National Press Club event held by NAEVRs educational foundation AEVR for release of the survey The Publics Attitudes about the Health and Economic Impact of Vision Loss and Eye Disease and the Vision and Blindness fact sheet, developed in conjunction with Research!America and sponsored by a grant from Research to Prevent Blindness. Mid-day, Dr. Windsor participated in AEVRs International Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) Awareness Week 2014 Congressional Briefing at which Neil Bressler, M.D. (Wilmer Eye Institute/Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine) spoke about the prevalence and economic impact of aging eye disease, specifically AMD, in which he incorporated results from AEVRs attitudinal survey.
Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN, center) and Adiv Johnson, Ph.D. and Toni Kay Mangskau, both from Mayo Clinic
Cong. Tim Walz (D-MN, center) with Dr. Johnson, Ms. Mangskau and Mustaqeem Siddiqui, M.D., all from the Mayo Clinic. Cong. Walz, the highest ranking enlisted soldier to ever serve in Congress, has championed the $10 M Vision Trauma Research Program (VTRP) budget line in Defense appropriations.
ARVO Advocacy and Outreach Manager Matt Windsor, Ph.D. with Sage Bauer from the American Academy of Ophthalmology at AEVRs International AMD Awareness Week 2014 Congressional briefing, held the same day
NAEVR At Past Rally for Medical Research Activities
The Rally was held in Mount Vernon Square in front of the Washington D.C. Convention Center in the heart of the city. Several surrounding streets were closed to accommodate the crowd.
Dr. Abecasis with Cong. John Dingell (D-MI), Chairman Emeritus of the House Energy and Commerce Committee with oversight jurisdiction over the NIH