On April 19th, AADR members representing 27 institutions in 17 states and the District of Columbia took to Capitol Hill to hold 70 individual meetings with Congressional offices. The meetings were a part of the 2012 AADR Advocacy Day on the Hill. Advocacy Day began with a Key Issues Briefing that featured remarks from inside of the Congressional budget process. Rep. Mike Simpson, DMD (R-ID) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), two Members of Congress who play pivotal roles in the appropriations process, addressed the group. Rep. Simpson, who serves as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior-Environment and Co-Chair of the Congressional Oral Health Caucus, explained that the FY13 budget process is fluid at present, and that tough budget decisions will need to be made that will displease most involved -likely after the November elections. Congresswoman DeLauro, who serves on the House Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education, noted her own successful battle with cancer, while calling on participants to speak-up and be relentless in their advocacy for federal investments in biomedical research. She explained that individual researchers in their roles as voters and the creaters of high-skill jobs often have considerable influence on Capitol Hill. The morning session also included an update on scientific activities at the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), provided by Director Martha Somerman, DDS. PhD. Dr. Somerman touched on the economic and health impacts of research conducted at or enabled by the NIDCR. She also touched on current and anticipated genomic studies, orofacial pain, health disparities, HPV-related oropharygeal cancer, as well as the recent announcement of the National Dental Practice-based Network.
The Message – Participants in Advocacy Day carried forward a message that reductions in spending need to be coupled with strategic investments in research in order to truly grow the economy and improve health. More specifically, participants called on Congress to fund the National Institutes of Health at a level of at least of $32 billion and NIDCR at a level of $450 million in FY13. Participants were armed with the AADR FY 2013 Federal Agenda, which articulates that budget cuts set into motion last year by the Budget Control Act of of 2011 (BCA) could result in a reduction of 2,300 research grants in FY13 alone. The AADR Federal Agenda also provides several examples of critical NIDCR-supported research in order to justify the investment. Just recently, the House of Representatives advanced a Budget Resolution that would provide even deeper cuts than what is included in the BCA. The House budget has been dismissed by the Senate and White House as “dead on arrival,” but it captures the challenge ahead.
Participants were reminded that Advocacy Day can take place on any given day throughout the year and from very close to home, as research institutions should consistently invite Members of Congress and their staffers to campus to see federally-supported work. Further, AADR staff can facilitate interactions with Congress during virtually any visit to DC by a member of the dental and craniofacial research community.
After the close of the AADR Day on the Hill, participants reported positive feedback from Congressional offices on both sides of the political aisle. However, participants also noted a continued skepticism among Congressional staffers that increased investments would be seen in FY13, indicating that even more effort in advocacy is necessary in the months ahead.