Heading to the Hill: A ‘Capitol’ experience


By Kelley Pagliai Rebord, MD

There is no doubt that we live in an era of hardlines, redlines, and partisan politics. However, that does not mean that individuals with a passion for their cause and their profession cannot make a difference. In fact, just the opposite — you can have a great impact.

According to a 2011 survey by the Congressional Management Foundation, 97 percent  of congressional staff say that in-person visits from constituents have an influence on their member of Congress, and 88 percent say that personalized emails influence their decisions. Dermatology may be a relatively small specialty but our profession impacts millions of Americans and our causes are national issues. As dermatologists we must be heard for the sake of our specialty and the issues that are near and dear to us — skin cancer awareness, indoor tanning, patient safety, and other critical issues.

Dermatology may be a relatively small specialty but our profession impacts millions of Americans and our causes are national issues. 

My advocacy story is a common one. I was inspired by my mentor, Mohs fellowship director, and past AAD President Dr. William Hanke. Dr. Hanke, through his leadership, provided a model for me on how to advocate for our profession. After moving from Indianapolis to Washington, D.C., I realized that living in this city presented an extraordinary opportunity. I could put a face to the issues and causes of dermatologists across the country. I now attend the Legislative Conference every year and visit Capitol Hill throughout the year.

The Legislative Conference is a special opportunity for dermatologists to make sure that our collective voice is heard on Capitol Hill — in addition to being a fun and well-organized event! It allows us to socialize, network, and learn about the political process in an unintimidating environment. Who doesn’t want to be a lobbyist for something they believe in if only for one day?

The AADA staff walks participants through the entire experience — everything from providing a primer on the issues and highlighting talking points, to role-playing, to taking us to Capitol Hill and making sure we meet with the right people. The staff is always available to answer questions.

Not only is the Legislative Conference a perfect opportunity to explore the advocacy process, it’s also a great way to build relationships with legislators, congressional staff, colleagues, scholars, and AAD leaders, board members, and staff.

Ultimately, the Legislative Conference is about discussing the issues and presenting a united voice for dermatology. Issues front and center at last year’s conference included increased funding for NIH research, increased awareness for skin cancer and the dangers of indoor tanning, and long-term solutions for Medicare physician payment, including a full repeal of the sustainable growth rate. These issues are our issues.

Let your voice be heard for dermatology. Registration is now open to all members to attend the 2013 Legislative Conference, Sept. 8-10. To learn more, visit the Academy’s Federal legislative affairs section on the AAD website.

Dr. Kelley P. Redbord, deputy chair of the Academy’s State Policy Committee and chair of the Grassroots Advocacy work group, is in private practice in Rockville, Md., and Vienna, Va., and is an associate clinical professor at The George Washington University. She is also an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology, the American College of Mohs Surgery, the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery, the Women’s Dermatologic Society, the Washington, D.C. Dermatologic Society, and the International Hyperhidrosis Society.

Email the Member to Member editor at members@aad.org. 

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