Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley joins James “J.P.” Paluskiewicz, deputy chief of staff to Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX); Cynthia Rice, vice president for government relations, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation; Israel Robledo, Parkinson’s Action Network Texas state director; and Lisa Shulman, MD, professor of neurology, University of Maryland in a panel discussion about the power of research advocacy. The panel, hosted by Parkinson’s Action Network and moderated by PAN CEO and Research!America Board member Amy Comstock Rick, JD, discusses how to be an effective advocate and communicate effectively with congressional staff to achieve your advocacy goal.
When asked what makes a good advocate, Woolley advises that we must clearly articulate our case, listen to the decision makers’ questions and answer them as best we can. We should be authentic and personal in our communications. Woolley also notes in her comments that many people can be advocates; in fact, public opinion polls show that the public expects patients, researchers and clinicians to all participate alongside Congress in shaping policy.
For advocates who can’t make it to Washington, DC, Woolley has practical advice on ways to advocate from home. During the congressional recess, lawmakers and their staff typically schedule meetings in their district offices with constituents and hold town halls. Advocates should try to meet with their representatives when they’re home for the recess, tell their personal stories related to research to local media, and submit letters to the editor in hometown papers to spread the message. Support for medical research is one of many advocacy topics discussed on Capitol Hill; hearing the same message from a home district shows our representatives how important the issue is to their constituents. And don’t underestimate the impact of a single email or phone call; the volume and passion of the advocacy message for medical research matters.
Woolley also talks about the need to remember the long-term goal and that this is “an iterative process.” There will be steps forward as well as apparent failures, but we can learn from everything. And with reduced funding for research under sequestration, it is important that medical research advocates continue to work together to promote research advocacy as a whole — not promote one disease or area of research over another — for the benefit of the entire research community and health of Americans.
Advocates should be aware that there is a Congressional recess this week and next, making this an opportune time to speak with your representatives at home!
Watch the full panel discussion for insight and advice from other panel members.