By: | Oct-16-14

Heidi Ecker, NACDS director of government affairs and grassroots programs, was honored this week with the Volunteer of the Year award from the Public Affairs Council. CEO Issue Update caught up with Ecker to discuss grassroots advocacy and the award and what they mean to her professionally and personally.

Q: How did NACDS’ involvement in grassroots advocacy evolve?
A: In 2008, NACDS President & CEO Steven C. Anderson, IOM, CAE, and the NACDS Board of Directors decided to invest in expanding and formalizing the NACDS grassroots advocacy program. NACDS members had previously engaged in letter writing campaigns, but they weren’t a part of a living, breathing advocacy community. I came on board in 2008 to build that community—NACDS RxIMPACT.

Why is grassroots advocacy so important?
A: For me the magic of grassroots advocacy is working with individuals who may not have thought they could make a difference because the policymaking process can seem intimidating and bureaucratic. To be able to inspire someone and show them they can make a difference—and have them get excited about it—is really where the magic happens.

Q: How do NACDS RxIMPACT pharmacy tours show Congress what pharmacy does?
A: NACDS RxIMPACT pharmacy tours not only educate members of Congress, but their staff members as well. On the advocate side, people are really excited to interact with an elected official and to show their ‘house’ to the member of Congress or their staff members and say, ‘This is the real deal. This is what we do every day. This is how we help our patients—your constituents.’ The tours help elevate to Members of Congress and their staff the reputation and the understanding of the diversity of pharmacy services that the pharmacy community can provide.

Q: How essential is member involvement in the success of NACDS RxIMPACT?
A: Member engagement has grown by leaps and bounds over the past six years and each and every single advocate enables NACDS RxIMPACT to celebrate growth and success. NACDS member company leadership are exposing their teams to these programs in the spirit of leadership development opportunities for pharmacy to cultivate stronger advocates, showcase the presence of pharmacy to Congress, and articulate how the industry is making a difference in healthcare delivery. And this culture is growing. Every year a new company comes on board with that fire in their belly. They want to engage and they want to make a difference for their company—and for their patients. The most visible crescendo of our community’s engagement is NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill when hundreds from across the nation travel to Capitol Hill to promote pharmacy’s priorities. There is a presence, solidarity and spirit of community that’s energizing!

Q: What does this award mean to you personally?
A: It’s incredible to be recognized by the Public Affairs Council and NACDS for work in my bailiwick. Grassroots is the area that I feel passionate about, and to be recognized for that is very special.

Register today to attend the NACDS RxIMPACT Day on Capitol Hill, March 11-12, 2015.