PAN CEO Amy Comstock Rick Outlines 2011 Challenges

February 2011 Monthly Message
Dear Parkinson’s community member,
The 112th Congress is getting settled, committee memberships have been assigned, and legislative work in Washington is beginning in earnest.  The PAN staff, along with our grassroots policy committee, is mapping out our legislative and policy agenda for the coming year and, despite the uncertainty of the current political climate, we expect an active legislative year.  To mention just a few, we look forward to a reintroduction of the legislation that will track and collect data on the epidemiology, incidence, prevalence, and other factors of neurological diseases, including Parkinson’s; and, we anticipate a very strong push to ensure that the vital Parkinson’s disease research program at the Department of Defense is funded again in 2011 and 2012.  And, of course, as we await the Court of Appeals decision regarding federal funding for human embryonic stem cell research, we are fully prepared to launch into an all-out grassroots legislative campaign to restore funding, should the decision not be favorable.
But as those of us in Washington formulate our plans for this legislative session, there is important work that needs to be done across the country by everyone in our community to assist our legislative efforts.
The sense of urgency that we feel in the Parkinson’s community – the sense that further biomedical research is sorely needed to bring better treatments and cures for the millions around this country struggling with incurable diseases and conditions – appears to have been lost.  The priorities in Washington right now center around jobs and regulations that impede businesses, and those are indeed legitimate concerns.  However, those priorities shouldn’t diminish the importance of biomedical research.  We must do everything we can to put our issue back in the national spotlight.  In fact, government investment in science and research can lead to private-sector growth and job creation, both of which are critical to helping our nation continue to get back on its feet after some truly difficult economic times.
As a nation, we invest billions each year in basic biomedical research to better understand human biology and disease process.  Yet at the same time, we have to fight harder than we ever have before to secure a relatively minor amount of funding for a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) program that would bring those basic research discoveries through the drug development process more smoothly and in less time – creating next-generation therapies and treatments that could make a real difference.
I encourage every one of you to make the work of PAN part of your everyday conversations.  Help us tell Congress and the President that America’s health is just as much a priority as jobs, regulations, and taxes.  Take a minute today to contact your Members of Congress and ask what they are doing to support biomedical research and innovation in this country.  Encourage your friends and family to do the same.  It’s important that we lay this groundwork now, because we will need each and every one of you to help secure the passage of individual pieces of legislation as they come up in Congress this year.  And, when the time comes to focus on these individual priorities, our work will be much more successful if we have already communicated the need.
Yes, we are in challenging political times.  But knowing you are in our corner supporting us and joining us in our mission to ultimately find a cure for Parkinson’s disease makes me confident we can make a difference.
Amy Comstock Rick
Chief Executive Officer