Paul Shaddle

Photography: Brian Threlkeld

Day 2 of Call-on Congress was just as busy as day 1, with advocates learning what it takes to have a successful congressional meeting during Hill Day.

Aubree Thelen, Grassroots Advocacy Manager for Fight CRC, kicked things off by talking about the power and importance of advocacy. Thelen motivated attendees to consistently use their voices to affect policy, even if sometimes change doesn’t happen overnight.

One of the priorities of colorectal cancer (CRC) advocacy is emphasizing the significance of proper screening, which is why the first panel of the day provided advocates with information about the current screening guidelines.

Sophie M. Balzora, MD, reinforced the knowledge that a colonoscopy is still the best screening test for CRC. She added other great options for the average-risk population include the Fecal Immunochemical Test (FiT), flexible sigmoidoscopy, CT colonography, and Cologuard.

“The best test is the one that gets done, and gets done well,” said Balzora.

Lisa Richardson, MD, discussed the progress the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has achieved in regards to CRC screening. The CDC’s Colorectal Cancer Control Program (CRCCP) is working on increasing CRC screening rates to 80% among people between 50-74 years of age.

Richardson explained funding is key to help the program support partner screening clinics, and to reach high-need communities.

Richardson and Balzora were followed by Ann Zauber, PhD, who is an attending biostatistician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Zauber discussed the evidence for the new American Cancer Society screening guidelines, which lowered the age of CRC screening from 50 to 45 for average-risk individuals.

To be a powerful advocate it’s necessary getting to know your members of Congress, and attendees had the opportunity to meet and listen to Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD) during today’s panels. Raskin is part of Fight CRC’s Congressional Committee and is also a stage III colorectal cancer survivor.

After listening to Congressman Raskin, it was time to learn about appropriations, authorization, and budget requests in policy. The panel was led by Shawn Gremminger, MPP, from Families USA, Stephanie Krenrich, MA, from American Cancer Society Action Network, and Molly McDonnell, policy strategist for Fight CRC.

Many attendees are having congressional meetings for the first time, and it can feel intimidating for those who have never done it before. Fight CRC ambassador Marra Rodriguez shared her first-time Call-On Congress experience to encourage them to not be nervous. Rodriguez, who is currently attending her third Call-On Congress, gave the audience several useful tips to navigate their first meetings.

Call on Congress

The rest of the day focused on preparing advocates for the entire Hill Day experience, giving them their physical meeting schedules, and creating a positive atmosphere for a busy, yet impactful, day tomorrow.

With all the tools and information provided today, Fight CRC’s advocates are ready to take on the Hill and make a difference.

Want want to help us make a difference on The Hill tomorrow? Sign the petition! 

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