Advocacy in action: Anatomy of a perfect Capitol Hill visit to promote provider status

APhA member Betsy Elswick, PharmD, could give a master class on how to engage with Members of Congress to advocate for provider status legislation (H.R. 592/S. 314).

As a Clinical Associate Professor at the West Virginia University (WVU) School of Pharmacy, Elswick brought a group of 12 student pharmacists and one community pharmacy resident to Washington, DC, to teach them how to advocate for the profession.

We’ve come a long way since I attended WVU. While I was somewhat active in a fledgling Student APhA, today, students all over the country, together with their APhA–ASP advisors, are really figuring it out and making the profession’s voice heard.

Following meetings with APhA staff, the WVU group visited Capitol Hill and conducted visits with the entire WV delegation. The students visited staff in the offices of Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV), a cosponsor of S. 314; Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV); and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV). The group thanked Adam Tomlinson, Legislative Director for Senator Capito’s office, for her cosponsorship for S. 314.

The group’s visit with Sen. Manchin’s Legislative Assistant, Katherine Cassling, was also very positive. The students spoke about the need for nationwide, seamless, real-time interoperability in controlled-substance monitoring programs. Cassling was very interested and supportive of these concepts.

The group felt a huge surge of positive energy after they met with Rep. Evan Jenkins’s Legislative Assistant in health care, Geoffrey Hemplemann, who has very good friends who are WVU pharmacy graduates. He was very excited about the pharmacist provider bill. As past Executive Director for the West Virginia Medical Association, Rep. Jenkins is knowledgeable about the pharmacist’s role in medically underserved areas and has often been pro-pharmacy in the past. His office appears very supportive of efforts to pass H.R. 592.

The Hill visits were part of Elswick’s Pharmacy Advocacy and Leadership Course.

While I’m definitely a WVU fan (because it’s my alma mater!) and pleased to see Betsy and her crew “attack” Washington again this year, this is a GREAT time to give a nod to all of our APhA–ASP Chapter Advisors and those who promote advocacy and leadership in so many ways.

Our next generation of new practitioners will have much to look forward to due to their efforts, and our continued push to give consumers access to and coverage for pharmacists’ quality patient care services. 

Check out the June 2015 issue of Pharmacy Today for more details about Elswick’s Hill visits. To learn how to plan your own Hill visit, go to

If  you know of others who have done similar advocacy activities, let us know! Every interaction is meaningful and needed.