I was given a wonderful scholarship opportunity by NSH to attend the 2019 ASCLS Legislative Symposium in Washington D.C. and provide some feedback on my experiences at the event. I met my fellow scholarship recipient shortly after arriving in Virginia on the eve of the meeting. Also a first timer, I was impressed with her bright mind and confident personality and we were able to discuss a few of our shared concerns and questions about what we were expecting from the symposium and meetings. In addition, I was able to connect with some other NSH professionals when we met for dinner that evening to get to know each other briefly before the next day’s events.
Early in the opening day, a panel of legal and governmental affairs professionals with legislative expertise was very useful to accelerate into what the current political climate consists of at present in Washington D.C. Their knowledge and perspectives really helped to bring me a little further up-to-speed on what the important issues are in this current session and likely to be in the next year with regards to laboratory and medical issues in the federal government. The entire day was organized with many useful updates and informative points to help us in our goal.
Although the group of NSH members that attended this symposium was fairly diverse, I was incredibly impressed with how similar our goals were and how well we meshed in our interactions. Meeting the other types of laboratory professionals and hearing some of the specific issues they face was very powerful as well. While our daily tasks may vary significantly, we really do have a great opportunity to come together and align our resources to address problems in the federal government that affect us all.
The meetings with my legislators’ offices went a lot better than I had anticipated. Nerves were running pretty high, even with all of the preparation notes and planning. Throughout the day, I met a few representatives for each of my congresspersons and there were certainly a range of personas and atmospheres in those offices. We were aware going into the symposium that unfortunately congress would not in be session at the time of the meetings. Many offices would be sparsely staffed and the legislators themselves would be unlikely to remain in the area, but we would still be able to accomplish the overall objectives through the staff members.
The first meeting I had was with a group that consisted of two other lab professionals as well as another histologist. This meeting was probably the most difficult of the day as the host had some very specific questions that we would need to follow up on, but went well overall. I went on to meet with another senator’s office after that and was accompanied by my fellow histotech again. We both conveyed our concerns and goals for the “asks” that we were there to discuss and found the staff to be highly receptive to the things we had to say. By the time I met with the office of my third legislator, I was on my own but I felt very confident in what information I was conveying and how to address the questions they might have including finding resources to follow-up with at a later date.
An unexpected but very important take-home point from the symposium was that this is not an activity that must be accomplished in Capitol Hill on a specific day or week. Our national legislative members have state and district offices that are nearby for us at home to reach out to and keep a presence within. We can establish a working relationship with these offices and their staff that will allow us to remain connected with our delegates.
In summary, I found the ASCLS Legislative Symposium to be an imperative tool for building confidence in advocating for laboratory and other governmental issues that need to be addressed. The amount of skills, news, and insight the conference brought to me is invaluable. The collaboration of organizations and experts that present and share at this event is tremendously helpful and truly sparks the desire to stay involved. I look forward to future years of this legislative event, and encourage any laboratory professional who is even slightly interested in becoming involved, to ask questions and look into attending.