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In January 25 Advocacy Day, ARVO Researchers Make FY2009 NIH/NEI and Defense-related Vision Research Funding Requests to Congress

Legislative Update
January 28, 2008

As in past years, the timing of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology’s (ARVO) January Program Committee meeting enabled an Advocacy Day of 50 Congressional visits by the twenty participants early in the legislative session—one of the first conducted by any organization in the second session of the 110th Congress. Using just-released position papers and talking points developed by NAEVR, participants requested a Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 increase in National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Eye Institute (NEI) funding of 6.6 percent, reflecting the biomedical inflation rate of 3.6 percent, plus 3 percent to begin restoring the nearly 18 percent purchasing power lost in the past five funding cycles. In addition to an increase in NEI funding—the Institute was flat-funded in FY2008 at $667.1 million—participants also emphasized the importance of the timeliness of appropriations, such that the continuity of research is not jeopardized by lay-offs of trained staff or lack of supplies for experimentation. The ARVO researchers also educated each office with position papers and talking points about the importance of defense-related vision research, urging each Member to write a letter of support to the House and Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee leadership for the continued eligibility of eye and vision research for the $50 million pool of peer-reviewed funding in the Department of Defense’s Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP). NAEVR selected offices of potential Subcommittee "champions" for this continued listing and ensured that the ARVO constituent from that district or state made the request.

The FY2009 budget/appropriations process begins in earnest with the release of the President’s budget request on February 4, at which time NEI will also release its FY2009 Congressional Justification. The House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Subcommittee plans to hold its NIH hearing on February 26/27—NAEVR will attend and report on the testimony from NIH Director Dr. Elias Zerhouni and Institute Directors. NAEVR has also submitted its request to testify at the Subcommittee’s Public Witness hearings, likely to be held in late March/early April.


ARVO Advocacy Participants included (from left to right): Front Row: Carol Toris, Ph.D. (University of Nebraska Medical Center); Muna Naash, Ph.D. (University of Oklahoma Health Science Center); Janey Wiggs, M.D., Ph.D. (Harvard Medical School); Thomas Millar, Ph.D. (University of Western Sydney/Australia); Filippo Drago, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Catania/Italy); Second Row: Rajiv Mohan, Ph.D. (University of Missouri-Columbia); ARVO Executive Director Joanne Angle; Neeru Gupta, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Toronto/St. Michael’s Hospital/Canada); Claude Burgoyne, M.D. (Devers Eye Institute); Third Row: Lenworth Johnson, M.D. (University of Missouri-Columbia); Erik van Kuijk, M.D., Ph.D (University of Texas Medical Branch /Galveston); Ron Adelman, M.D., Ph.D (Yale University School of Medicine); Debra Nickla, Ph.D. (New England College of Optometry); Fourth Row: Michael Kirby, Ph.D. (Loma Linda University ); Michael Robinson, Ph.D. (Miami University); Not Pictured: Linda McLoon, Ph.D. (University of Minnesota); Todd Margolis, M.D., Ph.D (University of California-San Francisco); and Dong Chen, M.D., Ph.D (Schepens Eye Research Institute).

Maryam Khan from the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), an LHHS and Defense appropriator, met with Dr. van Kuijk.
Maryam Khan from the office of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), an LHHS and Defense appropriator, met with Dr. van Kuijk. Ms. Khan had previously conducted vision research at Northwestern University.

Dr. Kirby, Dr. Margolis, and Dr. Millar (far right, one of three ARVO international members participating) met with Kristin Wikelius from the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).
Dr. Kirby, Dr. Margolis, and Dr. Millar (far right, one of three ARVO international members participating) met with Kristin Wikelius from the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). The group also met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) staff in the U.S. Capitol.

Tim Steinemann, M.D., and Dr. Johnson (far right) met with Philip Young, a DOD Fellow in the office of Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO)
Tim Steinemann, M.D., and Dr. Johnson (far right) met with Philip Young, a DOD Fellow in the office of Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) and a former Special Operations soldier in Iraq. Dr. Johnson, a constituent and member of the National Advisory Eye Council (NAEC) and the NIH Council of Councils that manages the NIH common fund, requested that Defense appropriator Sen. Bond champion the continued listing of eye and vision research in DOD peer reviewed funding. Dr. Steinemann (Case Western Reserve University), who chairs the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s (AAO) Research, Regulatory, and External Affairs Committee, joined in visits prior to the next day’s AAO Federal Secretariat meeting.

Dr. McLoon with Ryan Crowley in the office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
Dr. McLoon with Ryan Crowley in the office of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). Recently, Dr. McLoon hosted in her laboratory staff members from the offices of Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN), a member of the Special Aging Committee, and Cong. Betty McCollum (D-MN), an LHHS appropriator.