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Dear Friends:

Welcome to the Columbia University Medical Center's Office of Government & Community Affairs (GCA) web site.  Government & Community Affairs represents the interests of Columbia University Medical Center before the federal, state, and city governments.  This office also develops and implements programs with the communities surrounding Columbia University Medical Center and serves as the primary liaison between the Medical Center and the external community. 

GCA coordinates information on services and programs available at the Medical Center campus.  The office responds to and engages community stakeholders, local residents and community based providers as they seek to learn more about the various medical center programs, services, events and activities.  We work with various elected officials, medical associations and other organizations to advocate and educate policy makers on areas ofinterest of our faculty and staff.

If you have any need or desire to work with elected officials or community based organizations, I strongly encourage you to contact us to see if we may be of assistance.



Ross A. Frommer

Vice President and Associate Dean


Dear Colleagues:

I invite you to participate in this year’s Rally for Medical Research Capitol Hill Day. On Thursday, September 17th, 2015, a broad coalition of medical research advocates will gather in Washington to urge Congress to provide robust, sustained and predictable increases in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in fiscal year 2016 and beyond. Columbia University Medical Center is a supporter of the 2015 Rally.

You are no doubt aware that this is a very difficult time for biomedical research in the United States, but with both the House of Representative and Senate supporting increases to the NIH budget, and with the House passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, this is also a time of great opportunity. We have to make sure that Congress and others understand how important biomedical research is for our nation’s health, our economy, and our status as a world leader in research.

Capitol Hill Day participants will team up with other advocates to meet with members of Congress and key staff. Rally organizers will put together the teams and arrange the meetings. To participate, simply register at the link below. Those attending are also invited to a training session and reception for advocates the evening before and a kick-off breakfast the morning of the rally. Activities will end early enough for you to get back to the New York City area Thursday night.

To register and make your voice heard in Washington, please click here: http://rallyformedicalresearch.org/Pages/Hill-Day-Signup.aspx

There is no cost to participate in the Rally for Medical Research Capitol Hill Day; however, you are responsible for your own travel costs. If there is a large enough group from CUMC, we can look into coordinating transportation and lodging. Please note that this could be considered lobbying, so you may not use government grant funds to pay for any costs associated with this event.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need additional information. Thank you.


Ross A. Frommer

Associate Dean for Government & Community Affairs

Columbia University Medical Center

212 305 4967

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NIH Funding: Reason for Optimism?

September 10, 2015

Posted in: Campus News

By Ross A. Frommer, vice president for Government and Community Affairs and associate dean at Columbia University Medical Center

Ross Frommer

By Ross A. Frommer, vice president for Government and Community Affairs and associate dean at Columbia University Medical Center

The biomedical research community has felt the squeeze of a lean NIH budget for many years, first as funding flat-lined for nearly a decade before dipping during the 2013 sequestration. In real terms, funding is down 20 percent since 2003, impacting current and future research alike.

But change may be on the horizon. Why do I say that? First, there is strong bipartisan support for biomedical research in both the House and Senate. Earlier this year, 169 members of the House and 54 senators cosigned letters supporting an increase in funding, with more Republicans signing than ever before. Republican presidential hopefuls have also expressed their support in some form or another: nine of the Republican candidates have come out publicly in support of funding for biomedical research in some form or another.

President Obama’s budget request includes $31.1 billion for NIH, which would be a $1 billion increase from 2015. The House does him $100 million better, appropriating $31.2 billion for the agency. The Senate beats them all with $32.1 billion, a roughly 6 percent increase for the NIH in its Appropriations bill. Regardless of the exact number, we are looking at a significant increase that would bring the agency funding level to its highest amount ever.

This is in addition to an $8.75 billion funding increase included in the bipartisan proposal, 21st Century Cures Act, led by Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI) and Dianna DeGette (D-CO), to move biomedical research forward. This would be in addition to the annual appropriation, and because it is mandatory, not subject to the annual budget process. HR 6 passed the House on July 10 by a strong bipartisan margin of 344 to 77. Next stop is the Senate.

While the chances of seeing a significant bump up in the NIH budget are higher than they have been in a long time, the budget process is far from complete and an increase in funding is by no means a certainty. Most, if not all, of the potential roadblocks are unrelated to the NIH itself. Despite the strong bipartisan support for the NIH, significant disagreement among the President and Republicans and Democrats in Congress over the broad budget picture will at least delay and possibly prevent a final spending plan for 2016. The federal fiscal year ends on September 30, and given delays, we will need a continuing resolution (CR), a temporary spending bill that will allow the government to continue to operate at their existing funding levels. This means that even though the President, the House, and the Senate all want to give the NIH a big increase, the agency will operate at its 2015 level until a final appropriations bill has passed. Of course, all this assumes there is a CR and we avoid another government shutdown.

Despite the bipartisan expressions of support for the NIH, increased funding is far from certain. Since 2011, there has been a cap on overall discretionary spending. With this cap in place, it is very difficult to fund increased spending, even for agreed upon priorities like the NIH. President Obama has called on Congress to lift the caps, but so far there has been no movement on this. Further complicating matters is that the partial relief from the budget caps provided in the 2013 Ryan/Murray budget agreement expires in 2016 and sequestration could come back into effect.

Even 21st Century Cures is far from being a done deal. Although Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), chair of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) is a strong NIH supporter, he has not committed to including additional funding in the Senate version of the bill. Further complicating matters is that some provisions of the bill, notably the offsets used to pay for the increased NIH funding, lie outside the HELP Committee’s jurisdiction, meaning the bill would have to be reviewed by at least one other committee before coming to the Senate floor.

This is why it is so important to advocate strongly for increased NIH funding. Patients, scientists, health care providers, and others must make their voices heard and let Congress know how important this issue is.

Advocacy works. During consideration of the 21st Century Cures Act, there was an amendment that would have converted the additional NIH funding from mandatory to discretionary. This would have subjected the funding to the whims of the annual budget process. In response, members of the research advocacy community came out in strong opposition. Columbia worked with other research institutions across the State to urge the New York Congressional delegation to oppose it. Every member from New York—Republican/Democrat, upstate/downstate—voted no, and the amendment went down in defeat by a large margin.

Examples like this underscore how important it is to take a stand, and there are several ways to do so. You can always contact your senators and member of Congress (www.senate.govandwww.house.gov) to let them know how you feel. From time to time, the Association of American Medical Colleges and other patient advocacy or professional organizations will run very effective web-based grassroots efforts which you can support. When participating in such efforts, please remember to use your home address, not your work address (you may use your Columbia email address).

There is a special opportunity to participate in advocacy on September 17. That day, patients, scientists, health professionals, families, and friends will gather in Washington for the Rally for Medical Research. Columbia is co-sponsoring the rally, and all students, faculty, staff, and friends are invited to participate. For more information, please visit www.rallyformedicalresearch.org.

Please also feel free to reach out to the Office of Government & Community Affairs with any questions about advocacy or policy. We can be reached at (212) 305-8060 or at cumcgca@columbia.edu.


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Last updated 9/15/ 2015

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