2024 ACGT Hill Day Reflections

In May 2024, ASHG hosted a fourth year of virtual advocacy meetings with policymakers on Capitol Hill. Over the course of a week, participants in the  2024 cohort of the Advocacy Certificate for Human Genetics and Genomics Trainees (ACGT) program joined members of past  ACGT  cohorts and members of the  Government and Public Advocacy Committee (GPAC)  in meetings with 15 congressional offices. ASHG advocates shared the importance of continued support for human genetics and genomics research, advocating for NIH funding and sharing ASHG’s key policy priorities. Read more about the ASHG virtual Capitol Hill Meetings in the summer edition of The Messenger.

US Capitol building at sunset, Washington DC, USA.
Source: Igor Link/Shutterstock.com

ASHG’s virtual Capitol Hill Meetings event was organized by the GPAC as part of the Board-approved Action Plan. As a GPAC-led initiative, Hill Meetings participation is a key feature of the ACGT program. Read the below reflections from the 2024 ACGT cohort describing their experiences participating in ASHG’s 2024 Hill Meetings including what they learned, what they found surprising, and how their participation in this event instilled confidence in their ability to advocate for human genetics and genomics.

“Signing into the ASHG virtual Capitol Hill meetings, I’ll admit I was nervous and didn’t know exactly what to expect. Once the meetings started, though, I was surprised how easy it was to talk to the staffers about the importance of our NIH-funded graduate programs and public studies, like NIH’s All of Us. While there is a lot of work to be done to secure adequate NIH funding, the ACGT program and these ASHG Hill Days have helped prepare me to be a more engaged advocate in the future.”

– Mary Hackbarth

“Participating in the 2024 Virtual Hill Event was an invaluable experience, allowing me to directly engage with policymakers and emphasize the critical need for NIH funding. I particularly appreciated the openness and support from the legislative staff, which reinforced my commitment to continue advocating for the essential resources our scientific community requires to thrive.”

-Rodrigo Mendez

“Participating in Hill Meetings was an illuminating and exciting experience. I got to speak about my research and the general importance of national research initiatives, like the NIH Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development study, with offices of my Senators and Representatives. It was also inspiring to hear all the advances in genetics that others are working towards to benefit the health of Americans and the world at large. Now that I understand how these meetings work, I hope to continue engaging in advocacy throughout my career.”

– Lydia Rader

“At the ASHG Virtual Hill Meetings I spoke with policymakers about how genetics research and their advances have a huge impact on the care, counseling and education I’ll be providing to patients and their families. As someone with no prior experience with formal advocacy activities, I, at first, felt intimidated! However, engaging in these conversations helped me better understand and appreciate how vital these meetings are in helping improve the health and well-being of society.”

– Kathy Rosales

“Hill Day 2024 gave me an opportunity to work towards one of my goals during my PhD, to strengthen my scientific communication skills to people with varying scientific knowledge. My favorite part was when one of the representatives was able to connect on a personal level with my area of research. The genuine gratitude that each representative expressed for the time and effort that we spend in improving human health reinvigorated my passion for science and is something that I will keep in mind throughout my journey as a scientist.”

– Miriam Saffern

“Participating in Hill Meetings for the first time was an exciting experience! I was especially thrilled to speak with the legislative assistant of my representative, highlighting the relevance of NIH funding for my own genomic research. Overall, it was rewarding to advocate for increased funding for science to encourage the advancement of genomic scientific discovery and improve health outcomes for all populations.”

– Larah Siouffey

“Participating in Hill Meetings provided a platform to communicate with legislators and share our personal stories and experiences within the genetics research field. I was pleasantly surprised by officials’ genuine interest in our accounts regarding government funding and its impact, as well as their eagerness to hear about our work in genetics research. This experience not only allowed me to advocate for funding but also made me feel like I was playing a meaningful role in raising awareness and making a difference for those affected by ataxia.”

– Guinevere Spurdens

“The opportunity to participate in the ASHG’s Hill Meetings was an invaluable chance to gain a deeper understanding of the priorities and concerns of policymakers as well as a unique opportunity to share our work and thoughts on important topics. It was also inspiring to see the passion that the congressional offices had to support NIH research and learn about the efforts being made within the scientific community to increase diversity in genomics research and for funding rare disease research.”

– JJ Waldo

“I greatly enjoyed meeting with congressional offices as it allowed me to understand the bigger picture of our research and why it has real-world impact. The experience also helped me learn how to communicate complex scientific concepts more effectively to general audiences. The opportunity to network and learn more about region-specific statistics related to human genetics and genomics research will be tremendously beneficial for my own work and career development moving forward.”

– Diya Yang

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