Cheyenne Reyes, MLS(ASCP)CM

From left: Jessica Lawless and Cheyenne Reyes visited the staff of John Kennedy, senator from Louisiana, during the 2019 Legislative Symposium.

My first Legislative Symposium was an experience that I will forever remember. Being able to see how the government works and how it can so closely affect us in this profession was eye opening. We do not realize just how important it is for laboratory professionals to make themselves known to our governing bodies, but the truth is, our legislators have more control in their hands than we like to admit. Talking to our representatives and senators may not always feel successful, but they will remember our stories and struggles. If we continue to push and make ourselves known, there is bound to be someone who cares enough to make a difference and stand up for us.

I really appreciated the set up of the symposium. As someone who has no history or knowledge of the government and how it runs, the meeting we have before we go up to The Hill really helps. I was feeling overwhelmed and nervous because I was not sure about how anything worked in Washington, D.C. Having people who were very knowledgeable walk us through how certain legislation affects us and the best way to convince our congresspeople that these issues are important gave me the tools I needed to confidently speak out about the issues medical laboratory scientists face every day.

Going up on the Hill was exhilarating. Standing with 117 MLSs from 38 states to discuss the laboratory workforce shortage, PAMA, and laboratory-developed tests inspired me to become more active in politics. I learned just how much government affects our lives, even though many of us—including me—do not like to acknowledge politics. It is important for us to stay active enough to make educated decisions about who we choose to represent us. This is essential not only as individuals who work in healthcare, but as citizens of the country.

The opportunity that was given to me by way of the Legislative Symposium to speak with staffers of our congresspeople is one that few have, especially as college students. I spoke alongside several people from my state during most meetings, but after midday, the more experienced members let us branch out on our own. We tested how effective our arguments were and had the chance to strengthen our rhetoric without always having the more knowledgeable members there to cover us. It was a “learn by doing” situation that I appreciated. That is the way many medical laboratory scientists learn. Being able to figure out our own way of speaking with staffers was invaluable.

Overall, the ASCLS Legislative Symposium was a life-changing and rewarding experience. There is so much to learn about how a simple conversation with the right people can steer the way we live our lives. I hope to attend many more Legislative Symposiums in my lifetime.

Cheyenne Reyes is a medical laboratory scientist at Ochsner LSU Health Monroe Medical Center in Monroe, Louisiana.