Federal funding for biomedical research and ongoing support for affordable comprehensive health coverage were the top two issues on the list of topics that Chancellor Sam Hawgood, MBBS, discussed with policymakers and key Republican lawmakers in Washington, D.C., this week.
A key meeting for Hawgood – who was joined by Keith Yamamoto, PhD, vice chancellor for Science Policy and Strategy, and Barbara J. French, vice chancellor for Strategic Communications and University Relations – was with U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, whose agency oversees the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and other medical, public health and social services.
As national discussions continue about funding for scientific research and the potential repeal and replacement of the ACA, Hawgood’s trip was an opportunity for the chancellor to reinforce how federal money for biomedical research and health coverage combine to make advancements in patient care.
“It is of the upmost importance to bring to lawmakers and policymakers the message of how cuts and changes at the federal level would impact UCSF’s ability to advance health in our community and worldwide,” Hawgood said. “This trip allowed me the opportunity to reinforce how continued cooperation can pave the way for a healthier society.”
The chancellor’s meetings on May 2 came just days after Congress agreed to a federal spending bill that will increase federal research funds for many government agencies, including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for this fiscal year. The bill doesn’t address funding for the next fiscal year, which begins in October.
To help bolster the message about biomedical research funding and health form, UCSF’s contingent was joined for several meetings by representatives of Johns Hopkins University and UC Irvine. Johns Hopkins and UCSF are the No. 1 and No. 2 recipients of NIH research funding, respectively.
Representing Johns Hopkins was Paul Rothman, MD, dean of Medical Faculty, vice president for medicine of The Johns Hopkins University, and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. Rothman oversees both the School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Health System. Joining the meetings from UC Irvine was Howard Federoff, MD, the vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the UC Irvine Health System.
Hawgood, Yamamoto, French, Rothman and Federoff all attended the meeting with Secretary Price, which focused on the importance of the NIH as well as reducing regulatory burden. Natalie Alpert, associate director for federal government relations, also joined the UCSF team.
Hawgood’s visit also included meetings with representatives for House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), and Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. The UCSF group also met with Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who has introduced a bill, the Patient Freedom Act, that would repeal and replace the ACA. Yamamoto met with representatives from the offices of Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who as chairmen of the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations Subcommittees, are responsible for funding the Department of Health and Human Services, including the NIH.
In a meeting with the Department of Energy staff, Hawgood discussed ways UCSF could bring its research expertise to partnerships that would use national labs’ computing power – a type of pairing that was envisioned by the Cancer Moonshot Task Force.
UCSF has played a large role in the Cancer Moonshot Initiative, launched by President Barack Obama and led by Vice President Joe Biden, who visited UCSF as part of his nationwide listening tour in February 2016 to understand the state of cancer research and care. The initiative is moving forward under the National Cancer Institute.
“We have and will continue to provide our full support and expertise as the Cancer Moonshot and other federal initiatives, including ones focused on precision medicine and mental health, move forward,” Hawgood said.
On Thursday, just days after Hawgood’s trip, the House passed a health care bill that aims to repeal and replace many parts of the ACA. The bill must go through the Senate for reconciliation, but it sets up a fight about the future of health care and how it impacts patients.
“We are at a tipping point in this nation in regard to continued support for biomedical research funding and health care,” Yamamoto said. “We are bringing the message to policymakers about what can be accomplished through federal funding and collaboration, and it is resonating with those we meet with.”