Be a Part of ATS History: Rally for Lung Health

May 8, 2017 at 1:18 pm

Instilling a Culture of Advocacy

All voices are needed in our ability to advocate and effect change. Participation from the next generation of fellows are integral to this work, as today’s policy decisions impact tomorrow’s health care for years to come.

Two fellows participated in the annual ATS Hill Day in Washington, D.C. this year, where 30 to 40 ATS members met with legislators to discuss issues related to their practice of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine.

Lekshmi Santhosh, MD

Lekshmi Santhosh, MD

Lekshmi Santhosh, MD, a clinical fellow at the University of California, San Francisco, was one of them. No novice to activism, Dr. Santhosh has engaged at the community level since the start of her medical career. Through the American Medical Student Association, she helped to promote transparency and to change the conflicts of interest disclosure policy at Harvard Medical School. At the state level, she was part of a recent California Thoracic Society Hill Day, where chapter members advocated for prescription labeling in widespread foreign languages. She also wrote a paper “Why Doctors Don’t Do Politics,” which explored the reasons for physicians’ low level of engagement in the political process.

According to Dr. Santhosh, there are many kinds of activism. “We can advocate on behalf of patients and our profession in different forms,” she says. Whether locally, nationally, or via the media, physicians have multiple opportunities for civic engagement. “Legislators take notice and really do value our perspectives. Any action is better than doing nothing, and all forms of activism ultimately serve our patients.”

Avenues of Advocacy & Activism

Getting involved in policymaking is one aspect. The Society’s annual Hill Day brings ATS members and patient advocates together at Capitol Hill to lobby for increased research funding, and other important issues of health care reform. This year over 40 ATS members from 23 different states came to Washington, D.C. to participate in the ATS Hill Day, in March. The top priority was funding for the National Institutes of Health.

Public action is another aspect. The ATS 2017 International Conference takes advantage of its Washington, D.C. location with the Rally at the U.S. Capitol. On Tuesday, May 23, the Society will hold a rally to protest recent proposals that would significantly impact federal funding for medical research, weaken laws and regulations, and harm the country’s public health. All attendees of the conference are invited to join Society leadership at this demonstration.

Event: ATS Rally at the US Capitol: Lab Coats for Lungs

Date/Time: Tuesday, May 23, 5:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Location: Upper Senate Park (across Delaware Avenue from Russell Senate Office building/across Constitution Ave. from the U.S. Capitol)
View directions and sign up on the conference website.

Legacy of Advocacy

Advocacy, in the U.S. and internationally, is central to the ATS mission and has been since its founding in 1905. The Society has fought for research funding, clean air, public health resources, and access to affordable health care, and it has fought against tobacco, climate change, and health disparities. The Rally at the Capitol, a first for the Society, will unite ATS members, regardless of their field of expertise, in their concerns about current policy.

Presence & Influence

Proposed cuts to federal funding for scientific research and easing of environmental, health and safety regulations threaten the public health of millions of Americans. They also send a disturbing message to the rest of the world. President Trump’s proposed budget to cut NIH funding by 18 percent for the fiscal year undermines the essential value of NIH research funding to the health and welfare of the American public. By standing together, rally participants will help seek increased funding for the NIH and other federal science programs and keep the pressure on Congress to make good on their promise.

Lynn B. Gerald, PhD, MSPH

Lynn B. Gerald, PhD, MSPH

Engagement matters. Increasing awareness of the relevance of medical research and its greater impact to respiratory medicine is paramount. Cutbacks for biomedical research threaten the pursuit of new treatments and cures for patients burdened by lung disease. Increased understanding of the importance of this research paves the path to new treatments. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, for instance, is a leading cause of death in the U.S., and yet heavily underfunded in comparison to other major diseases supported by the NIH.

Lynn B. Gerald, PhD, MSPH, Canyon Ranch Endowed Chair and professor at the University of Arizona, is a long-time member of the Research Advocacy Committee, which serves as a resource for ATS research priorities. “We need visibility,” she says, “both with elected officials and with the public. As experts in the field, we can help others see the importance of lung health issues. Our expertise has the potential to influence decision making, from the local to the global arena.”


Stand with us, join the ATS Rally. RSVP to Lab Coats for Lungs.



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