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Policy Blog: Our Untapped Advocacy Potential

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Mark T. Edney, MD, FACSMark T. Edney, MD, FACS

I want to express to the AUA community what an opportunity we as urologists have right now to help shape policy decisions in Washington. The last three months for me have included five days on Capitol Hill, largely in promotion of the urotrauma bill but also promoting urology's broader legislative agenda. Several important points have crystallized for me. First, we have a first rate Government Relations & Advocacy (GR&A) Department in Washington. Josh Webster and Kristine Tuinstra do phenomenal work under the expert guidance of Sandie Preiss. Sandie has a wealth of experience and established relationships which she leverages daily to our benefit. Second, UROPAC is the reason we have the access that we do. Our Hill days have consisted of many visits usually followed by fundraising dinners and receptions which are phenomenal relationship builders. I've had conversations at these events with Chairman Dave Camp of the House Ways and Means Committee on SGR reform, and Senators John Barasso (an orthopedic surgeon), Rob Portman and Pat Toomey on the future of the Affordable Care Act. Washington is a transactional town and the only reason Sandie and I are in the room with these influencers is UROPAC. What happens next is just as critical: when one is introduced as a physician, often the only one in the room, there's a collegial level of credibility and engagement that one gets from fellow physicians (Congressmen Benishek, Ruiz, Harris, Roe, Senator Barasso) but there’s a unique level of credibility and attention from all members that we're given as busy docs and subject matter experts who have taken a day away from our patients to be on the Hill.

The AUA GR&A team of professionals and physicians is on the precipice of becoming one of the preeminent medical advocacy bodies in Washington. What will push us into elite status? A bigger UROPAC and more physician participation. Participation can take a variety of forms. One need not commit to the level of time and effort that those of us on the Legislative Affairs Committee have. Any AUA member who is going to be in Washington for any reason (meeting, family vacation), can email the AUA and have the team arrange a meeting with your congressman or senator. For all urologists, those who enjoy the in-person stuff and those who don't: give to UROPAC. Give every year. We must get participation in UROPAC above 18 percent. There's no reason we shouldn't be a perennial $1.5M political action committee. When one combines the access of UROPAC with the new and existing relationships cultivated by our legislative affairs docs and the professional staff, the sky is the limit in terms of our ability to positively influence the law and policy that will shape the future of our great specialty.

Legislators want to hear from us. I close with a quote from Rep. Paul Ruiz, taken directly from the transcript of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs hearing on HR 984 in May:

"I know that Dr. Edney has been the champion and going around meeting a lot of us on the Committee. And I applaud his work and I encourage more urologists to do the same."

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