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Voice from Washington

Spotlight on Congressional Bi-Cameral Caucus on Parkinson's Disease
An Interview with Representative Mark Udall

The Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) has dedicated significant resources to expanding the membership of the Congressional Bi-Cameral Caucus on Parkinson's Disease. This important caucus was created-initially as a working group in the House of Representatives-to serve as a strong advocacy tool for the Parkinson's community, and as a congressional network to understand more about Parkinson's disease. Currently there are 65 Senators and Representatives in this important bi-partisan caucus.

Representative Mark Udall (D-CO) serves as a Co-Chair of the caucus, along with Representative Fred Upton (R-MI), Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), and Representative Lane Evans (D-IL) in the House of Representatives, and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR) in the Senate.

Representative Udall is serving his third term in Colorado's Second Congressional District. A member of the House Resources Committee, House Science Committee and House Agriculture Committee, he has championed environmental, energy, education and health care issues. PAN recently spoke with Representative Udall about the caucus and his views on the future of this important group.

PAN: What does this Bi-Cameral Caucus represent to people with Parkinson's disease?

Rep. Udall: This Bi-Cameral Caucus represents a steady and strong voice on Capitol Hill for people who are living with Parkinson's. We have a great network of staff members and members of Congress that the Parkinson's community can tap into to advocate on behalf of citizens and I'd encourage people to do that.

PAN: Representative Udall, from your perspective as a leader of the Bi-Cameral Caucus on Parkinson's Disease, why should other members of Congress be involved in finding a cure for Parkinson's?

Rep. Udall: I believe that we have a real opportunity to find a cure for Parkinson's within five to 10 years. All the research points in that direction, but we need a strong commitment of resources from the federal government for that research to be carried out. Over the last five years, Congress doubled the budget for the National Institutes of Health, which was a major achievement. But we need to keep pace with inflation and increase NIH funding by 10 percent a year if want to continue current research and stimulate new projects. In addition, the research that is done on Parkinson's has tremendous benefits for other neurodegenerative diseases, so supporting Parkinson's will help find cures for other diseases in the world.

PAN: Does your work on this caucus, at least in part, help to keep alive the memory of your father, former Representative Morris K. Udall?

Rep. Udall: I think it's fair to say that a lot of the success we've had with Parkinson's issues on Capitol Hill is related to the great affection that many members had for my father. His blend of civility in political discourse and determination to achieve results earned him respect from colleagues on both sides of the aisle. The act that established funding for Parkinson's research was named after him, as well as the research centers around the country that were created by the act. And each year, the Parkinson's Action Network gives the Morris K. Udall Leadership Award to members of Congress who have helped to move the Parkinson's research agenda forward.

It's a great honor to have our family associated with the fight against Parkinson's. Aside from the notoriety, it's an awesome task because this fight is bigger than one individual can do alone. What we achieve as a community will impact medical research, health care delivery, and millions of people throughout the country and world. My family is honored and humbled to play our part in this great project.

PAN: My Representative/Senator isn't on this list! How do I get him or her involved?

Rep. Udall: Call, write, fax or email your member of Congress or your Senator and ask him or her to join the Bi-cameral Caucus. During PAN's annual lobby day on the Hill, ask your member or Senator to join. If you know someone who has Parkinson's who is willing and able to be part of that meeting, it will put a human face on the issue. It will demonstrate to the member or Senator that this is a person he or she represents and it's not just an issue that affects other people.

Thank you for your time, Representative Udall.

If you would like more information on the Congressional Bi-Cameral Caucus on Parkinson's Disease, please contact PAN at (800) 850-4726, or by email: info@parkinsonsaction.org.