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From the Hill 

10-11-2016 13:17

New IR advocates head for the Hill

Fall 2016

SIR thanks all those who participated in this year’s program: J. David Prologo, MD; Junjian Huang, MD; Tami Carillo, MD; Karan Patel, MD; Lindsay Thornton, MD; Natosha Monfore, DO; Elliot DeYoung, MD; Hayley Oligane, MD; Andrew Niekamp, MD; Wes Angel, MD; Nathaniel Ott, MD; Erich Russell, DO; Mithil Pandhi; Rebecca Le; Aaron Reposar,;Ali Alikhani, MD; and Paul D. Rotolo, MD.

On May 11–12, 15 SIR members took part in the 2016 Grassroots Leadership Program, in Washington, D.C. The two-day program began with an advocacy boot camp that explained the biggest issues facing IR and educated participants on the importance of jargon-free language when speaking with members of Congress.

In the second day, participants spent time on Capitol Hill advocating for those IR-related issues, including the newly introduced SIR GME funding bill, MACRA implementation as it relates to IR and IR treatments for pain management. Participants met with members of Congress and their staff and took part in three separate SIRPAC events hosting Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., John Shimkus, R-Ill., and Chris Collins, R-N.Y., each of whom serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Below are the perspectives of some of the events’ participants.

Junjian Huang, MD

It is of utmost importance for interventional radiology to have a strong voice in Washington, especially in today’s environment with increasing political governance of physician practice patterns. However, the physicians who have the most time to advocate on behalf of the specialty are probably residents. So how do you transform a wet-behind-the-ears ball of enthusiasm into an entity for advocacy? For me, it was the SIR Grassroots Leadership Program.

My primary role during meetings with representatives and congressional staffers was to help garner interest and support for H.R. 5188. I spent most of the time talking about what IRs do on a daily basis, the technologies we pioneered and the emerging procedures currently being developed. Speaking to politicians about the role of IR really reaffirmed the need for advocacy.

Attending the Grassroots Leadership Program was an unforgettable educational experience. Rarely do physicians get exposed to the process by which policies are crafted and even less often do they have the opportunity to effect change personally. I am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity and would strongly encourage those who feel that our specialty is worth fighting for to participate in future programs.

Rebecca Le

The SIRPAC Grassroots Leadership Program provided hands-on experience for meeting with congressional members about important legislative matters that affect interventional radiologists or its members in training.

Not only are participants able to learn advocacy skills, but you must go and quickly apply them. As a medical student heavily interested in IR, I appreciated the impact physicians could make in advocating for IR issues with the government. Since congressional members want to hear from their constituents, having programs like this allow physicians and physicians-in-training to provide a face to a bill members see. We must be our own advocates on the Hill and personalize as many IR initiatives as possible. Participating in the SIRPAC Grassroots Campaign and supporting SIRPAC facilitates this process.

I highly recommend this program to other physicians or physicians-in-training who are interested in volunteering their time to discuss the impact IR has made in their community, or in medicine overall, with members of Congress.

Mithil Pandhi

The SIR Grassroots Leadership Program is an excellent opportunity for trainees to become involved with SIRPAC. I was thrilled to meet like-minded colleagues and form strong relationships with them.

We worked as a team to educate decision-makers about the breadth of care that interventional radiologists are providing in their states. I saw first-hand that advocacy allows lawmakers to understand the value that IR provides their constituents.

Ultimately, our discussions may impact the amount of support that lawmakers provide for training in IR, their support for IR as the field grows and how IR procedures are reimbursed. Most importantly, advocacy for IR ensures that the specialty will continue to improve patient care and outcomes.

Karen Patel, MD

The SIR Grassroots Leadership Program provided me with a unique opportunity to meet with the legislators in Washington, D.C., and discuss the vital role interventional radiology plays in medicine and the longitudinal relationship it maintains with its patients and their families.

I learned about the process of policy development and the importance of advocacy. If we as a specialty do not remain engaged on the Hill and don’t fight on our patient’s behalf, then other specialties are going to help dictate how our patients are to be treated and the manner in which they receive their care.

The program allowed my voice to be heard on the Hill by the relevant policymakers and fostered a close relationship with them so that I can continue to promote the mission of SIR. Within months of finishing the program, I was able to host a congressional site visit with Rep. Dave Trott, R-Mich., and discuss the importance of a newly introduced House Bill, H.R. 5188, and to seek his co-sponsorship on the Bill.

I encourage everyone to get involved and fight for our specialty. For young trainees, the SIR–RFS Advocacy Committee is a great place to start getting involved.

J. David Prologo, MD

The SIR Grassroots Leadership Program affords interventional radiologists and IR trainees one-on-one time with the nation’s legislators.

We met formally and informally with members of the House and Senate—mostly those who represent the areas where we practice. We were able to plainly discuss items from current bills and clearly inform the vote in Congress.

With so many issues to tackle, our legislators rely heavily on information from the “frontlines” to make decisions. The process was amazing to see firsthand.

Aaron Reposar

Participating in the SIR Grassroots Leadership Program was an eye-opening experience. Congressional leaders were meeting about the opioid epidemic at the time of the leadership program, which opened up several discussions about IR pain treatments and about other IR treatments including interventional oncology therapies, vascular interventions and women’s health interventions.

One of the most interesting aspects of the grassroots leadership program was that we had a chance to introduce a new bill to house congressional leaders that advocated for the reallocation of a small subset of unfilled residency positions into IR training programs. It was interesting to see how a bill is introduced into Congress and what goes behind making a bill come to fruition.

Overall, the grassroots leadership program made me want to get involved in future IR events on Capitol Hill and make sure I am doing my part to make people aware of all that IR has to offer.

Erich Russell, DO

Now that interventional radiology is a primary specialty we have the opportunity to increase training and unify the specialty. I had the opportunity to help accomplish these tasks through the Grassroots Leadership Program hosted by SIRPAC.

The 15- to 20-minute meetings with representatives ranged from difficult to inspiring. One of the timely topics in our discussion was opiate addiction. It was an opportune vehicle to introduce minimally invasive procedures that require less pain control and, therefore, less chance for addiction, than open surgical options. It also included a discussion of the buzzwords in medicine including cost and patient satisfaction, which IR excels at providing.

It was amazing to see the people who knew of our specialty and who were actively engaged with trying to advance our cause. Whether it was a chance hallway meeting with Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, or a meeting with an interested staffer, it was clear that these individuals were interested in helping. They asked us questions, asked our experiences and asked for our insight.

The most beneficial part of the grassroots campaign was placing our face and our insight directly in front of the people who make policy for our country. In order for interventional radiology to expand and increase training, we must have a seat at the central discussion of health care and this seems well achieved with direct advocacy. I thank SIR and SIRPAC for this opportunity and for the successful trip to Washington, D.C.

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