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ARVO Board Educates Capitol Hill About Return on NIH Investment

Left to right: Jeffrey Boatright, Ph.D., FARVO (Emory University); Paul Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., FARVO (University of Sydney, Australia); Carol Toris, Ph.D., FARVO (University of Nebraska); Jacob Pe’er, M.D., FARVO (Hadassah-Hebrew University, Israel); Nicholas Delamere, Ph.D., FARVO (University of Arizona); and John Penn, Ph.D., FARVO (Vanderbilt Eye Institute/Vanderbilt University)
Left to right: Jeffrey Boatright, Ph.D., FARVO (Emory University); Paul Mitchell, M.D., Ph.D., FARVO (University of Sydney, Australia); Carol Toris, Ph.D., FARVO (University of Nebraska); Jacob Pe’er, M.D., FARVO (Hadassah-Hebrew University, Israel); Nicholas Delamere, Ph.D., FARVO (University of Arizona); and John Penn, Ph.D., FARVO (Vanderbilt Eye Institute/Vanderbilt University)
On October 21, several domestic and international ARVO Trustees participated in a NAEVR-hosted Advocacy Day prior to their Board meeting. Since Congress was not in session due to the election recess, the ARVO advocates discussed the impact of their research to demonstrate the return on the investment in NIH and to support future funding increases. They also emphasized the importance of timely appropriations to ensure the continuity of research and retention of trained staff, since Congress has not yet to finalize Fiscal Year (FY) 2011 NIH appropriations. Government agencies, such as the National Eye Institute (NEI), are currently being funded at the FY2010 level, which means that non-competing grants are funded at less than 100 percent until the FY2011 NIH appropriation is finalized.

The advocates thanked Congressional offices for the FY2009 and FY2010 NIH/NEI "regular" appropriations increases and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funding, noting how that has facilitated breakthrough research and the retention and recruitment of trained personnel. To emphasize the return on investment, the advocates stressed the potential of their research to improve quality of life and save expenses to the healthcare system.

Immediate-Past ARVO President Nicholas Delamere, Ph.D. (University of Arizona) visited the Arizona delegation offices, reporting that his department received $750,000 in ARRA funding that was especially helpful in retaining staff. "My biggest achievement in the past two years was not cutting staff, and that should not be how I am spending my time in research," he said, adding that once trained are lost they usually move out of state to another academic Institution or leave vision research entirely. Paul Mitchell, M.D.,Ph.D. (University of Sydney), a clinician scientist from Australia who accompanied Dr. Delamere, added his perspectives on the larger global impact of NIH’s research leadership, while also describing the impact of NEI-funded epidemiologic studies to characterize incidence of eye disease and vision impairment in the aging population. diverse ethnic populations, and in children. International advocate Jacob Pe’er, M.D. (Hadassah-Hebrew University, Israel) also added his perspectives in visits with the Georgia delegation, as he accompanied President-Elect Jeffrey Boatright, Ph.D. (Emory University).

After a debriefing session with the Trustees, NAEVR Executive Director James Jorkasky observed that,"NAEVR Advocacy Manager David Epstein and I were pleased with the responsiveness of the Hill staff, many of whom asked advocates to follow up with email examples of their ARRA-funded research. They also inquired about the impact of this research to improve lives and save costs. The Trustees did an excellent job in answering these questions on-site, and offered to serve as resources on vision research issues in the future."

Dr. Mitchell (left) and Dr. Delamere (right) with Kelsey Mishkin in the office of Cong. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
Dr. Mitchell (left) and Dr. Delamere (right) with Kelsey Mishkin in the office of Cong. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)
>Dr. Penn (right) with Cara Dalmolin in the office of Cong. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Dr. Penn (right) with Cara Dalmolin in the office of Cong. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)
Dr. Toris (left) with Charlie Ellsworth in the office of Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Dr. Toris (left) with Charlie Ellsworth in the office of Senator Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Dr. Pe’er (left) and Dr. Boatright (center) with Michaeleen Crowell in the office of Cong. John Lewis (D-GA
Dr. Pe’er (left) and Dr. Boatright (center) with Michaeleen Crowell in the office of Cong. John Lewis (D-GA)
Lauren Alfred (left) in the office of Cong. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) with Dr. Delamere (right) who maintains contact with the Washington and district offices
Lauren Alfred (left) in the office of Cong. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) with Dr. Delamere (right) who maintains contact with the Washington and district offices
Left to right:  Dr. Penn with ARVO President J. Mark Petrash, Ph.D., FARVO (Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute/University of Colorado at Denver, right). During an October 2009 ARVO Board Advocacy Day, Dr. Petrash described for Colorado delegation offices his ARRA-funded Challenge Grant funded at $1 million that enabled him to hire a Ph.D. level scientist.
Left to right: Dr. Penn with ARVO President J. Mark Petrash, Ph.D., FARVO (Rocky Mountain Lions Eye Institute/University of Colorado at Denver, right). During an October 2009 ARVO Board Advocacy Day, Dr. Petrash described for Colorado delegation offices his ARRA-funded Challenge Grant funded at $1 million that enabled him to hire a Ph.D. level scientist.