President's Message

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Our Boots on the Ground in Washington

August 2012
Monica Kraft, MD

Monica Kraft, MD

Advocacy is an important part of the American Thoracic Society’s mission, and our commitment to advocacy is one of the things that distinguishes the ATS from other medical organizations in the respiratory field. What many of our members don’t realize is that the ATS is the only professional medical society involved in the areas of pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine that has an office in Washington, D.C.

You might wonder how this directly affects the members of the ATS. One of the many messages that we impart upon elected officials emphasizes the importance and critical nature not only of maintaining but increasing funding for research. I’m thankful that this is a bipartisan issue, though we’ve had to explain for several years that a flat budget for National Institutes of Health (NIH) actually translates to a cut in research funding.

Our Washington staff, Gary Ewart, Nuala Moore and Chris Hughes, have been instrumental in getting our message to elected officials and establishing the Society as an authority on lung health issues. Their work is critical as we collaborate with federal agencies such as the NIH, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Gary, Nuala, and Chris coordinate meetings between the Executive Committee and directors of NIH institutes that are important to our society and our fields, including the NHLBI, NIAID, NICHD, NIGMS, NCI, VA, and the Fogarty International Center. During these meetings we discuss the ATS research agenda and learn about RFAs on the horizon, changes in funding relevant to our members, and other opportunities such as registries. It is an extremely valuable experience, and it allows us to keep ATS on the NIH radar screen. A trip has been planned for September, and we’re particularly looking forward to visiting Gary Gibbons, MD, the new director of the NHLBI.

To improve our visibility, we have a strong Research Advocacy Committee (RAC), which is led by chair Augustine M. Choi, MD, and vice chair Linda Ricci, MD. They travel to Capitol Hill annually to speak directly with their elected officials and staffers. Their trip is organized by our Washington staff as well.

In addition to the RAC, we have a very strong patient organization, the ATS Patient Advisory Roundtable (ATS PAR), which invites organizations that represent those affected by respiratory diseases, sleep-related conditions, or related critical illnesses to collaborate with the Society. These organizations travel to Capitol Hill with the Clinician’s Advisory Committee, chaired by Michael B. Green, MD, and co-chaired by Ann M. Schneidman, MS, CNS, RN, to spread the message about research funding and clean air.

Combining patient and provider voices can be very powerful. Chris Ward of the Allergy and Asthma Foundation testified with me in Congress in late July against the bill to put inhaled epinephrine—Armstrong Pharmaceuticals’ Primatene Mist chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) inhalers—back on the counter as a treatment for asthma. His perspective as a patient with asthma was invaluable as we worked to convince Congress that inhaled epinephrine is an unsafe drug for the treatment of asthma.

Building on our advocacy efforts is the Breathing Better Alliance (BBA), created by ATS Immediate Past President Nicholas S. Hill. The BBA, in partnership with PAR, will dispatch advocates to meet with elected officials in their local offices. We are still in the process of determining which states to target first and how we will present our message. More information will be forthcoming on this project as the BBA moves forward.

As the Society continues to make strides in pulmonary, critical care, and sleep medicine advocacy, you can be sure that your opinions are being heard throughout the nation.

I hope you enjoy the rest of the summer.

Last Reviewed: September 2017