A critical part of the NIH mission is to keep key stakeholders abreast of the scientific advances, opportunities, and challenges that exist in biomedical and behavioral research. It is clear that the discoveries that emerge from NIH-supported laboratories affect the lives of patients and their families, as well as the careers of researchers and clinicians. Ultimately, however, our work belongs to all Americans, which is why it is essential that policymakers, including members of Congress, are aware of the progress and promise of NIH investments across the country.
The NIH has an important role in educating policymakers so they are informed of agency priorities and programs. In addition to the resources provided on the NIH and NIAMS’ websites, the Institute regularly participates in many activities that are designed to highlight the work that we are doing to our colleagues on Capitol Hill, including:
- Statements to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees
- Annual Budget Justification
- Congressionally mandated reports, including the NIH Biennial Report
- Responses to Member inquiries
Similar to events coordinated by the NIH and its partner organizations, the NIAMS helps to develop activities that provide policymakers with opportunities to learn about the innovative science that is conducted by NIAMS-funded investigators. In October 2012, the Institute partnered with the NIAMS Coalition to host a half-day event for Congressional staffers, providing them a chance to meet with NIAMS leadership and tour our on-campus laboratories. Eight senior-level staffers, many of whom were visiting the NIH campus for the first time, saw how our investments in basic research are resulting in new treatments and improving the lives of patients.
The Institute also embraces opportunities to visit Capitol Hill to speak with members of Congress and their staff. In just the last year, at the invitation of several patient and professional organizations, I have participated in Member meetings and public briefings where research discoveries in skin disease, lupus, and osteoarthritis have been discussed.
Finally, because we understand that Members of Congress primarily learn about the NIH’s activities from communities outside of government, NIAMS places a high priority on ensuring that all of our stakeholders have a sound understanding of the Institute and its programs. The collaborative interactions between members of the NIAMS Coalition and Institute staff that were outlined in my June 2012 Director’s letter all contribute to the building of a well-informed community of patients, researchers, and clinicians.
Former Senator Arlen Specter called the NIH the “crown jewel of the federal government.” Like the late Senator, we are proud of the work that is supported by the NIAMS and welcome the opportunity to share it with the American people and their representatives.
Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health