On September 14th and 15th, Arkansas advocates Ashley McGarrah and her three-year-old son Jaxon, who suffers from a critical congenital heart disease, along with Misty Hsieh, a family medicine physician and American Heart Association Oklahoma City Board President, gathered in Washington D.C for the Rally for Medical Research Lobby Day on the Hill. The Rally was attended by over 400 organizations, including the AHA. The day brought together advocates from across the nation to speak directly with their lawmakers about the importance of medical research.
The fifth annual Rally for Medical Research Hill Day took place during a key time in the congressional appropriations process. The federal government’s new fiscal year begins October 1, meaning Congress will attempt to complete work on all spending bills before that date to keep the government operational (including the bill that contains funding for the National Institutes of Health). This year, the NIH received a second annual consecutive $2 billion increase, but due to calls for budget cuts, our voice was crucial in Washington. Robust NIH-supported research is our best hope for discovering new treatments, or even bring us closer to a cure for heart disease and stroke, which is a critical component of the AHA.
On Wednesday, our advocates shared their stories and attended a messaging training to prepare them for their day on the Hill. Ashley spoke to the audience about the importance of sharing your stories and connecting with lawmakers. The following day, Senior Grassroots Director Megan Klein accompanied Ashley and Jax, along with Lauren Marquette of the Susan G. Komen Foundation, as they met with Arkansas Congressman Steve Womack, Senator Tom Cotton, and Senator John Boozman. Jax was the star of the show. He made fast friends with the legislative staff in each office, while his mom spoke about the CCHD Jax was born with, and how he will require a heart transplant at some point in his life.
Misty met with Representative Steve Russel’s Legislative Assistant Alaura Ervin, Senator James Lankford’s Legislative Assistant Kevin Kincheloe, Senator James Inhofe and Representative Tom Cole of Oklahoma. Misty told her personal story about working as a physician to prevent heart disease and stroke.