RheumPAC, the ACR’s political action committee (PAC), is tasked with fundraising, vetting legislators, participating in Capitol Hill visits and developing important relationships for the College. During my interview with Gary Bryant, MD, the ACR’s inaugural RheumPAC chair, he shared his thoughts on the role of rheumatology advocacy in advancing clinical practice, research and education.
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[email protected]: Have you always been interested in advocacy?
Dr. Bryant: I am a longtime ACR member, having joined the College before my fellowship. I began my advocacy efforts locally as a Wisconsin state delegate to the State Medical Society of Wisconsin House of Delegates and then as a board member of the Wisconsin State Medical Society, focusing on government affairs. Shortly thereafter, I was invited to join the ACR CORC [Committee on Rheumatologic Care], and that launched my career in rheumatology advocacy. In addition, for 17 years, I have been one of the ACR delegates to the American Medical Association [AMA]. The synergy between the AMA and the ACR on issues relevant to rheumatology is an important aspect of our advocacy efforts.
[email protected]: What challenges did you face leading the first RheumPAC?
Dr. Bryant: I was on the ACR Board of Directors at the time it launched RheumPAC, and there was much debate among board members about whether the ACR should have a PAC. In the end, the ACR Board felt it was in the best interest of the College. The biggest challenge we faced was educating the membership about the benefits of a PAC and how RheumPAC activities would benefit patients, as well as the membership at large.
[email protected]: What do you see as the biggest accomplishments of RheumPAC?
Dr. Bryant: The membership has gradually become educated about the role of RheumPAC and involved in advocacy. It became very obvious to us that rheumatologists and rheumatology healthcare providers needed to have a place at the table for legislative issues. RheumPAC provides such a forum for the College and enables us to speak with legislators and represent the College’s views on political issues.
[email protected]: How can we sustain our rheumatology advocacy efforts?
Dr. Bryant: It is important that peers talk to peers, discuss the important issues facing our profession and highlight the impact we have when we work together as a group. There is nothing like the impact of personal conversations regarding advocacy issues. Through these discussions and a grassroots approach, we will be able to move the College forward and have a place at the table.