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ARVO Advocates Urge Congress to Avoid Sequestration

ARVO Executive Director Sally Atherton, Ph.D., FARVO, center, and Ava Bittner, O.D., Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University/Wilmer Eye Institute), left, met with Christine Evans, office of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who is the new Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee
ARVO Executive Director Sally Atherton, Ph.D., FARVO, center, and Ava Bittner, O.D., Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University/Wilmer Eye Institute), left, met with Christine Evans, office of Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), who is the new Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee
On February 7, members of ARVO’s Annual Meeting Program Committee participated in a National Day of Advocacy in which education, health, and medical research advocates urged Congress to avoid the looming sequester. Unless Congress takes action by March 1, President Obama must order these mandatory budget cuts, estimated at 5.1 percent of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 funding level for all agencies (including the National Institutes of Health), to take effect by March 27, which is the same day that the current Continuing Resolution (CR) that funds the government in FY2013 at the FY2012 level is set to expire.

ARVO Executive Vice President Craig Crosson, Ph.D., FARVO (Medical University of South Carolina) right, accompanied by Claudio Bucolo, Ph.D. (University of Catania, Italy) met with Catherine Phillips, office of new Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)
ARVO Executive Vice President Craig Crosson, Ph.D., FARVO (Medical University of South Carolina) right, accompanied by Claudio Bucolo, Ph.D. (University of Catania, Italy) met with Catherine Phillips, office of new Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)
In 40 meetings during this NAEVR-hosted event, the 13 domestic and 5 international ARVO advocates focused on the impact of the sequester on vision research funding. They emphasized that a 5.1 percent cut to NEI’s FY2012 funding level of $703 million would result in a loss of $36 million, or potentially 90 new research grants-any one of which has the promise to save or restore vision. They also described their research and the impact of cuts-in the sequester, flat funding, or reduced appropriations-as well as the effect of delayed appropriations on the momentum of their research and their ability to hire and retain trained staff.

The international ARVO advocates provided global perspectives on the far-reaching impact of the U.S. biomedical enterprise, in terms of research collaborations and training opportunities. Julie Sanderson, Ph.D. (University of East Anglia, United Kingdom), who accompanied Robert Zawadzki, Ph.D. (University of California at Davis), informed the California delegation offices that the sequester would “have a global impact on research and jeopardize the United States’ leadership, as well as its ability to compete internationally.” Dr. Zawadzki, who is originally from Poland, and Ales Cvekl, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine), who is originally from the Czech Republic, provided both domestic and international perspectives in their visits.

ARVO Executive Director Sally Atherton, Ph.D. and Executive Vice President Craig Crosson, Ph.D. (Medical University of South Carolina) participated, meeting in offices of their respective Members of Congress as well as with staff of key Committees, including the Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (LHHS) Appropriations Subcommittee. Dr. Atherton, who cautioned that the looming cuts “could result in the loss of an entire generation of biomedical researchers,” reminded the Maryland delegation that ARVO is a significant employer in the state with a large international membership and offered to serve as a reference for vision issues due to the office’s close proximity to Capitol Hill. Dr. Atherton was joined by Ava Bittner, O.D., Ph.D. (Johns Hopkins University/Wilmer Eye Institute), a young investigator who has been funded by an NEI training grant, who expressed concern about her future stating, “I’ve already made a significant commitment to get my advanced degrees, but I want to ensure that there is adequate future funding for my research.”

Dr. Crosson, who was accompanied by international advocate Claudio Bucolo, Ph.D. (University of Catania, Italy) met with staff of newly appointed South Carolina Senator Tim Scott (R-SC), who previously served in the House of Representatives, as well as with staff of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Dr. Crosson emphasized the sequester’s “cascading impact,” that is, its effect on biomedical research as well as every aspect of patient care. He observed that, “Although these Senators are fiscally conservative, I found their staffs to be generally receptive-as long as I had the data to back up my message.”

In that regard, while the ARVO advocates were on Capitol Hill, United for Medical Research released an updated report on the sequester’s impact on the nation’s life sciences sector, estimating that it would result in the loss of 20,555 jobs and $3 billion in economic output.

Also participating in the Advocacy Day but not pictured were Machelle Pardue, Ph.D. (Emory University), Andrew Taylor, Ph.D., FARVO (Boston University), David Huang, M.D., Ph.D. (Oregon Health & Science University/Casey Eye Institute), and Manabu Mochizuki, M.D., FARVO (Tokyo Medical Dental University).

Alycia Gross, Ph.D. (University of Alabama at Birmingham) right, with Laura Friedel, office of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is the ranking Republican on the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee
Alecia Gross, Ph.D. (University of Alabama at Birmingham) right, with Laura Friedel, office of Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), who is the ranking Republican on the Senate LHHS Appropriations Subcommittee
From left: Alem Tewoldeberhan, office of Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, Ray Applegate, Ph.D., FARVO (University of Houston) and Toshinori Murata, M.D., Ph.D. (Shinshu University, Japan)
From left: Alem Tewoldeberhan, office of Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), who serves on the House Appropriations Committee, Ray Applegate, Ph.D., FARVO (University of Houston) and Toshinori Murata, M.D., Ph.D. (Shinshu University, Japan)
Peter Hitchcock, Ph.D., (University of Michigan/Kellogg Eye Center) with Rachel McCleery, office of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)
Peter Hitchcock, Ph.D., (University of Michigan/Kellogg Eye Center) with Rachel McCleery, office of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI)
John Fingert, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Iowa), center, met with Rodney Whitlock, Health Policy Director for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), left, and an unidentified staffer
John Fingert, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Iowa), center, met with Rodney Whitlock, Health Policy Director for Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), left, and an
unidentified staffer
Val Delp, office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) with Ales Cvekl, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
Val Delp, office of Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) with Ales Cvekl, Ph.D. (Albert Einstein College of Medicine)
From Left: Robert Zawadzki, Ph.D. (University of California at Davis) and Julie Sanderson, Ph.D. (University of East Anglia, United Kingdom) met with Ben Kramer, office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
From Left: Robert Zawadzki, Ph.D. (University of California at Davis) and Julie Sanderson, Ph.D. (University of East Anglia, United Kingdom) met with Ben Kramer, office of Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
Kenneth Shindler, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania/Scheie Eye Institute), center, and Benjamin Thompson, Ph.D. (University of Auckland, New Zealand), left , with Theo Merkel, office of Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)
Kenneth Shindler, M.D., Ph.D. (University of Pennsylvania/Scheie Eye Institute), center, and Benjamin Thompson, Ph.D. (University of Auckland, New Zealand), left , with Theo Merkel, office of Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA)