A key part of the NIAMS mission is keeping our stakeholders informed of the accomplishments made possible through the investment of the American peoples’ tax dollars in biomedical research, and how that research is improving the lives of people living with diseases and conditions of the bones, joints, muscles and skin. NIAMS interacts with multiple groups, including investigators and grantees, and professional and voluntary organizations that represent the interests of scientists, medical practitioners and patients. Another important group that we interact with frequently is Congressional staff. Individual policymakers often approach the Institute when they need specific information about the research we conduct and support, and professional and voluntary organizations often invite NIAMS leadership to Capitol Hill to provide updates to lawmakers on the latest biomedical research. We have an important role in educating policymakers about the impact of NIH and NIAMS-supported research.
In addition to in-person meetings with Members of Congress, we have found that bringing our policymakers to our labs—to show them the science first-hand—confers a greater depth of understanding about the latest advances. It allows lawmakers and their staff to hear from the investigators themselves and to see research in action. To that end, we collaborate with our NIAMS Coalition colleagues to bring interested Congressional staff to the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md., on a biennial basis.
Our most recent Congressional staff visit was October 5. This year, staffers met with several investigators in the NIAMS Intramural Research Program. Our visitors heard about the international collaborations underway to conduct genetic and genomic investigations into the causes of juvenile arthritis and autoimmunity. They learned about how NIAMS research is shedding light on the changes in our microbiome that may be involved in many autoimmune diseases. Our visitors also learned about new discoveries that are helping us to better understand how lupus develops and progresses. Moreover, they saw how new imaging technology and strong partnerships with outside organizations may improve the lives of people living with vasculitis and other rare diseases. The tour included ample opportunities for staffers to discuss these and other topics in depth with NIAMS leadership.
In addition to face-to-face meetings, responses to specific Member inquiries, and more formal events such as the recent campus lab tour, NIAMS consistently shares information with our Congressional colleagues through Statements to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, and the Annual Budget Justifications.
We have a long tradition of maintaining strong ties with all of our stakeholder communities, and of working collaboratively with our NIAMS Coalition partners to foster and facilitate information-sharing. We welcome all opportunities to connect NIAMS and NIH with the American people and their elected officials.
Stephen I. Katz, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases
National Institutes of Health