By Carolyn Mullen and Nick Cavarocchi Jr.
On April 14, 2015, oral health scientists, educators and students from throughout the country participated in the 2015 Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill cosponsored by the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA). The purpose of the advocacy day was to persuade Congress to increase funding for oral health research and education by highlighting the economic impact, importance, and promise of the research supported by the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). “We all have our own story,” said AADR President Paul Krebsbach, DDS, PhD, Professor of Dentistry and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Michigan. “We’re the best stewards for information. Members of Congress value and listen to their constituents, which is why we are here today.”
With record levels of participation, our members conducted over 70 meetings with members of Congress. During these meetings they urged Congress to provide $32 billion for NIH, $425 million for NIDCR and $35 million for the primary care training in General, Pediatric and Public Health Dentistry under the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Title VII Health Professions Program in the Fiscal Year 2016 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriation Bill.
Also, to amplify our message on Capitol Hill, AADR issued an action alert which enabled individuals to participate virtually in our Advocacy Day. To date, AADR advocates sent over 90 emails to members of Congress.
Prior to advocating on behalf of oral health research and education, our members attended a morning briefing session in the Rayburn House Office Building. Importantly, all three dentists who are members of Congress, Representatives Simpson, R-Idaho; Gosar, R-Ariz., and Babin, R-Texas., briefed and welcomed the participants. In particular, Rep. Simpson emphasized the importance of biomedical research and recognized that Congress needs to get control of the debt otherwise there will not be any additional money for the National Institutes of Health. Representative G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. whose father was a dentist also brought greetings to our members. Dr. Martha Somerman, director of NIDCR and Dr. Renee Joskow, senior dental advisor at HRSA, also provided an update about initiatives and priorities at their respective agencies.
Katie Schubert, vice president at CRD Associates, provided an overview of the fiscal landscape and encouraged participants to actively engage with members of Congress. She stated, “We are living in a changing world of advocacy and we need discuss the importance of these programs and be engaged at the front end of this process.”
Reports from Advocacy Day participants indicated that Congress is generally supportive of increasing funding for NIH and appreciated the additional information about NIDCR and the grants it supports in the policymaker’s state.
The AADR Government Affairs team invites all members of the dental research and education community to engage their elected officials regularly, but at least on an annual basis through the Advocacy Day program, to communicate the importance of dental, oral and craniofacial research. If you would like to become more involved with AADR’s advocacy efforts please contact Carolyn Mullen, director of government affairs, and contact your elected representatives through the online AADR Legislative Action Center.