Cherika Robertson, MEd, MLS(ASCP)CM
Excited. Nervous. Intimidated. Those were my initial feelings upon first arriving in Washington, D.C., for the 2018 Legislative Symposium. I had never thought of myself as being interested in politics, or much less as a lobbyist. But, I did know that I love the profession of medical laboratory science. And, this profession I love faces many challenges. I wanted to use my knowledge and experience to make a difference. I was fortunate to receive the New Professional New Member Forum (NPNMF) Legislative Symposium Travel Grant. And now I am hopeful to be a Legislative Symposium attendee for life!
The event kicked off Sunday, March 18, with a NPNMF and Student Forum mixer. This mixer included dinner at the Hard Times Cafe and a visit to Escape Quest. We divided into two groups and each group used its problem-solving skills to try to solve the case in to “escape.” Both groups were able to successfully escape! This experience allowed me to reconnect with some members I had previously met at other events while also allowing the opportunity to establish new relationships. I am thankful for this opportunity to interact with other new professionals and new members because it made me realize I was not alone in my initial feelings.
Another concern I had pertaining to attending Legislative Symposium was commuting. I was unfamiliar with transportation in D.C. Have no fear, the D.C. Metro is easy to navigate. There’s even a D.C. Metro app that details the location of each train stop, the different color coded trains that travel to these locations, and expected arrival times at these specific locations.
Most of our scheduled meetings with legislators were completed as a group, comprised of all of the constituents from Arkansas. However, I did have a meeting with the representative from my state district by myself! Let me tell you, I was nervous. And I know when I get nervous, I talk fast. I just kept remembering the advice Stephanie Noblit and Karen Williams gave me: speak what you know. And adding a personal story or experience will further leave a lasting impression on legislators. I am not knowledgeable about political processes or legislative terminology, but I do have personal experience in the laboratory, seeing effects of legislation trickle down and have an impact on laboratories and patient care. That experience will leave the most impact. That is what I remained focused on.
One thing I realized from my first experience at the Legislative Symposium is I can use my voice, knowledge, and experience to make a difference. If you are nervous about how to approach a legislator or exactly what to say, do not worry. The educational sessions will guide you through all those details. I highly encourage all laboratory professionals to pay attention to important legislative issues that will have an impact on our profession, the healthcare system, and ultimately patient care. One way to do this is to not only become a member of ASCLS, but to be active and informed. If we don’t advocate for ourselves, who will do it?
Amazed. Proud. Those were feelings when leaving Washington, D.C., after our scheduled meetings with our legislators. Never had I felt prouder to be a medical laboratory scientist. Never had I felt more like I made an impact; that maybe, just maybe, what I discussed with legislators would cause change and have an effect.
As Patrick Cooney, ASCLS Legislative Lobbyist, stated, “what a great country we live in to be able to voice what we want.” This was my first legislative experience, but this experience taught me the value of using my voice to speak up and make a difference. My experience at the Legislative Symposium was both empowering and rewarding. I am already looking forward to attending the 2019 Legislative Symposium, March 18-19. Learn more at www.ascls.org/education-meetings/legislativesymposium.