The start of 2023 brings a new Congress to Washington, and the Society has already started work to ensure that new policymakers know about the issues ASH members face every day. The Hematologist spoke with the Chair of the ASH Committee on Government Affairs, Dr. Jennifer Holter-Chakrabarty, and the committee’s Vice Chair, Dr. Bart Scott, to learn how ASH members can help build relationships with their representatives on Capitol Hill.
As Chair and Vice Chair of the Committee on Government Affairs, Drs. Holter-Chakrabarty and Scott work with committee members and ASH staff to help shape the Society’s advocacy agenda and assess the best mechanisms to advocate within Congress and federal agencies on issues such as funding for medical research, removing barriers to access to care, improving physician reimbursement, and supporting individuals living with sickle cell disease. “Every election cycle brings us opportunities to educate newly elected lawmakers about the issues that hematologists face; whether they be physicians or researchers, we want to make sure policymakers in Washington understand the work that we do,” explained Dr. Holter-Chakrabarty.
The 118th Congress, which officially began on January 3, includes dozens of freshmen lawmakers. While ASH will be reaching out to all of these newly elected officials to share hematology policy priorities, the Society also needs the help of ASH members who are constituents to build and maintain relationships with both new and returning senators and representatives. “The presence of newly elected members of Congress creates a great opportunity to introduce yourself and hematology and set yourself up as a resource,” says Dr. Scott. “You want your congressperson or senator to see you as an asset and to reach out for information when needed.”
There are many ways that ASH members can meet and introduce themselves to their elected representatives, from town hall events to scheduling meetings with the congressperson or a member of their staff. Many members of Congress now hold their town halls and meetings both in-person and virtually, giving constituents multiple ways to participate. Dr. Holter-Chakrabarty noted the importance of joining these events to make your voice heard: “If your legislator is hosting a town hall, join in and check it out. This represents a great way to show your legislator the issues that matter to you.”
In addition to scheduling meetings and attending town halls with your elected officials, you can also reach out to your representatives’ offices in more informal ways such as by phone or email to let them know how you feel on a particular issue. Dr. Scott stresses that any way you reach out is helpful: “I would suggest using all forms of interaction — phone calls, email, and even social media. They all make an impact!”
Dr. Holter-Chakrabarty echoed using social media as a way to establish a connection with your legislators and noted, “Every congressional member has multiple social media accounts, and these channels are a great way to stay up to date on their priorities and to engage on issues you care about, particularly those affecting hematology.”
ASH members are also encouraged to join the Grassroots Network, a group of more than 4,000 ASH members across the country who advocate on behalf of hematology and their patients. “The Grassroots Network is a great way to be more involved in advocacy, and it offers multiple resources to help hematologists build a strong connection with policymakers,” said Dr. Scott.
To learn more about ASH advocacy and the Grassroots Network, visit the ASH Advocacy Center at www.hematology.org/Advocacy. Members of the ASH Grassroots Network receive action alerts and access to the monthly Advocacy Update with news and information on events happening in Washington, DC, that have an impact on both hematology research and practice. The ASH Advocacy Center also makes it easy to communicate with your members of Congress. By simply entering your address, you can send an email or tweet to your lawmakers with just a click.
To learn more about the Society’s policy priorities and to find tips for becoming a strong advocate, access the ASH Advocacy Toolkit at www.hematology.org/advocacy-tools, which includes fact sheets and other resources for members to use in their advocacy in support of hematology. Dr. Holter-Chakrabarty encourages ASH members to take advantage of all the resources available because “Congress works for us, and we should make sure they know about the important work that all of us do every day.”