All ASH members have the ability to be advocates for hematology, but for those who are looking for ways to make an even larger impact in Washington or in their state capital, there is the Advocacy Leadership Institute (ALI). This two-day workshop, which has been held annually at ASH headquarters since 2011, serves as an opportunity for ASH members to learn more about advocacy and health policy and become more engaged in the Society’s activities. ASH members from across the United States are provided with in-depth training on the legislative process and advocacy best practices. The workshop provides members with an opportunity to “walk the halls of Congress” practicing what they’ve learned to advocate on behalf of ASH’s policy priorities. The principal goal of ALI is to give hematologists the skills and tools necessary to continue to be effective advocates in their communities.

The Hematologist spoke with a recent ALI graduate, Dr. Azam Farooqui. Dr. Farooqui is currently finishing his third year of fellowship at Saint Louis University, where he focuses on hematologic and solid tumor malignancies. His interest in advocacy started long before his participation in ALI. “I have always had an interest in advocacy and public policy from various experiences throughout my training,” said Dr. Farooqui. “As I have advanced from student to specialist, I have found that our voices as physicians can be a powerful tool to project the voices of our patients.”

ALI participants spend an entire day on Capitol Hill, and by the time they return home, many have made a personal connection with their legislators’ offices. Dr. Farooqui viewed ALI as a “transformative experience” and found that “the most enriching part [of the experience] was establishing personal connections with our government representatives and creating an avenue to pass along the stories we have from our patients.” Often these connections are valuable and lasting, and the next time an advocate reaches out to their legislator they are recognized as an expert in the field.

Following his time in Washington, Dr. Farooqui intends to continue his advocacy. “I definitely plan to continue my work in health care advocacy and remain involved in the ASH Grassroots Network after this experience.” Dr. Farooqui declared. “I am also planning to visit my state capital [Jefferson City, MO] to advocate for various issues. I believe that maintaining a relationship with members of the state legislature is equally as important at the national level and will provide a mutually beneficial route to help our community directly.”

“If there are aspects of your clinical experience that are frustrating, or that you’ve ever felt could be improved upon, becoming an advocate to fight for broad changes can be an empowering way to help patients on a large scale,” explained Dr. Farooqui. “I felt my experience at ALI gave me an opportunity to share both my own and my patients’ experiences, and become a better steward of health care by honoring them in that way,” he added.

Interested in becoming more involved in ASH’s advocacy efforts?

ASH needs the help of all its members in bringing important issues to the attention of Congress; the Society offers a variety of ways for members to become more involved in advocacy.

The ASH Grassroots Network is the backbone of the Society’s advocacy activities. ASH members can sign up to receive regular updates about current advocacy efforts impacting hematology and information about how to contact their members of Congress. To join the ASH Grassroots Network, visit the ASH Advocacy Center.

If you’re interested in scheduling a meeting with your elected officials, staff in the ASH Government Relations and Practice Department are available to help set up meetings with congressional staff in Washington, DC, or back home in your district office. ASH staff can also provide the information needed to be an effective advocate, including fact sheets and relevant talking points, and assist with any necessary follow-up after the meeting.

Dr. Farooqui also encourages others to consider nominating themselves or a colleague for the 2020 ALI. “I believe any person interested in making an impact on the quality of our health care system as a whole would benefit from the ALI.” Nominations are open to all ASH members who are U.S. citizens. Additional information about ALI and the nominations process can be found online.