ASH member Dr. Zachary Kiser is running for Maryland's state senate on a science-forward platform inspired by his experience as an ASH Congressional Fellow. The Society sponsors one member each year to work in a congressional office, but Dr. Kiser is the first ASH fellow to run for office himself following his fellowship experience. His time working with Congress, he says, was one of the key factors that prompted his run for public office.
Dr. Kiser is a hematology researcher who graduated from Morehouse School of Medicine. He got involved in hematology advocacy in 2018 by participating in the ASH Advocacy Leadership Institute (ALI) — a two-day seminar open to ASH members who want to learn more about advocacy, health policy, and the legislative process. After his ALI participation, Dr. Kiser applied for and was accepted to the ASH Congressional Fellowship program, where he first served in the Washington, DC, office of Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) beginning in the fall of 2019. “Working on Capitol Hill was one of the most amazing times of my life,” Dr. Kiser says, “and I treasure the opportunity that being an ASH Congressional Fellow gave me.”
While working in the Senate, Dr. Kiser drew upon his previous career experience as a National Institutes of Health–funded biomedical researcher to advocate for people with neglected, rare diseases. He also worked to develop numerous pieces of public health– related legislation focusing on improving clinical trial participation, and on bills focused on the safety and security of pharmaceutical products manufactured abroad.
Dr. Kiser spent the second half of his congressional fellowship working as a staff member on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. There, he worked to examine the government's response to the COVID-19 crisis and find opportunities for the government to help mitigate the pandemic.
It was his time on the select subcommittee that prompted Dr. Kiser to make the leap from working with Congress to running for public office. “I am the type of guy who usually likes to work behind the scenes,” he said. However, after his time on the Hill helping to shape policy, Dr. Kiser says he “felt it was time to step out from behind the curtain and put my personal and professional experiences to work for the people of Maryland.”
Dr. Kiser has discovered firsthand that running for public office is a major undertaking, but he is proud of what his campaign has accomplished so far. Dr. Kiser is excited to run on a science-forward platform and is eager to bring his advocacy experience working on the Hill to Annapolis. “We're gaining a lot of momentum, and the most important next step for our campaign is to engage in direct voter contact,” he says. “I've been reaching out to activists and my neighbors in the district, and now I am ready to ramp up the sophisticated, targeted campaign that I need to run in order to win.” For more information about Dr. Kiser's campaign, please visit drzformaryland.org.
There are other ways to get involved in ASH advocacy short of running for public office. Joining the ASH Grassroots Network is one of the easiest actions you can take. Members of the Grassroots Network receive the monthly Advocacy Update covering the latest hematology news in Washington, periodic Action Alerts on bills in Congress, and easy ways to contact your legislators. “It is so important to stay engaged,” Dr. Kiser stresses, “and the ASH Government Relations and Practice Department staff will be excellent guides to your advocacy journey.”
Additionally, ASH members who wish to gain a more hands-on government experience can apply for the ASH Congressional Fellowship. The application cycle for the 2022-2023 fellowship will open in late 2021. The fellowship aims to connect hematologists to the policy-making process and educate congressional members and staff about issues that are important to hematologists and their patients. The fellowship also offers a great opportunity for hematologists to bring their skills and expertise to Washington, DC. ASH Congressional Fellows are sponsored by the Society for a year and work with the American Association for the Advancement of Science to train before selecting a congressional office to work in. For more information on the fellowship and how to apply, visit www.hematology.org/advocacy/congressional-fellowship.