The American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) is a professional, scientific, and medical society established to bring together clinical and experimental scientists who are involved in the study of bone and mineral metabolism. Each year for the past decade, ASBMR has held a Capitol Hill Day – an annual congressional fly-in where patients and volunteer leaders travel to Washington D.C. to attend meetings with their elected congress members to discuss the importance of and advocate for federal funding for biomedical research.
In the spring of 2021, travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic posed a challenge for ASBMR. In light of the pandemic, it was especially important for ASBMR to hold its annual Capitol Hill Day to remind Congress of the importance of federally funded biomedical research. Like many other associations, ASBMR made the transition from an in-person experience to a virtual event. In order to maximize the impact on Congress members, ASBMR expanded its virtual Capitol Hill Day to all U.S.-based ASBMR members, as opposed to just patients and volunteer leaders.
ASBMR was determined to make sure its advocacy efforts to Congress were just as effective virtually as they were in person. A critical component in successfully pivoting the event virtual was identifying a technology solution that could accommodate the 100 virtual individual meetings involved in the event, be easy for members to use, and lessen the administrative burden on staff. ASBMR utilized a company called Advocacy Associates that handled all technical aspects of the event, including scheduling all 100 individual meetings with members of Congress. The web-based tool provided each ASBMR member with a customized itinerary which included the information members needed to connect to their meetings with Congress, the unique video conference link, talking points, and other important materials.
Over the course of two days, a total of 69 advocates – both ASBMR members and patients – representing 25 states and 52 congressional districts participated in 100 virtual meetings to advocate for specific causes. Notable causes included the push to increase federal funding to the National Institute of Health by $3.2 billion, and supporting the Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act which would provide additional funding for clinical trials and laboratory research de-railed by the COVID-19 pandemic. ASBMR members also advocated for the re-introduction of a bill in May (National Osteoporosis Month) that would increase the Medicare reimbursement rate for office-based dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), a type of scan that measures bone density.
ASBMR’s choice to expand the virtual Capitol Hill Day to all members played a vital role in the success of the event. Because many ASBMR members work at academic institutions across the U.S., federal funding of biomedical research is a significant driver of both scientific innovation and economic growth in their communities. The virtual Capitol Hill Day gave ASBMR members an opportunity to present their personal stories detailing the ways federal policy impacts their careers, how their research impacts society, and how federal funding positively impacts their local economies.
Despite switching the routinely in-person Capitol Hill Day to a virtual setting, ASBMR still met its goal of successfully advocating for federal funding for biomedical research. ASBMR was able to mimic – if not increase – its past advocacy efforts by expanding the attendance to all members and incorporating technology that had the capability to host the large amount of meetings needed for the event.