Legislators Named First Congressional Primary Care Champions

Reps. Joe Courtney and David Rouzer Applauded for Working Across the Aisle

May 25, 2018 11:13 am News Staff

In October 2015, a Connecticut physician named Ramindra Walia, M.D., went to Washington, D.C., and told a roomful of his peers and a handful of lawmakers a story about a young woman who worked at a gas station. At 21, the woman had already endured five years of pain and inconclusive consultations with subspecialists. An exploratory surgery resulted only in the patient being told that nothing was wrong with her.

At the AAFP's Family Medicine Advocacy Summit in Washington, (from left) Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I.; Rep. David Rouzer, R-N.C.; Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn.; Maria Costigan; Jason Cooke; and AAFP President Michael Munger, M.D., attend an awards breakfast on May 22. Rouzer, Courtney, Costigan and Cooke received the first-ever Congressional Primary Care Champion Awards.

One day on the job, though, the woman had a chance conversation with a nurse, who encouraged her to make one more appointment. She did, and X-rays revealed the source of her pain: a congenital hip deformity.

"All this woman needed was to be connected to a primary care doctor," Walia said.

If it were that simple, though, Walia wouldn't have traveled to Capitol Hill that day for the launch of the Primary Care Caucus.  

Two and a half years later, the bipartisan effort, founded by U.S. Reps. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., and David Rouzer, R-N.C., continues to advocate on behalf of primary care physicians, providers and patients. Key to the caucus' message: Every dollar invested in primary care saves $13 in downstream costs.

This month, the AAFP and the Health is Primary campaign(www.healthisprimary.org) of Family Medicine for America's Health(fmahealth.org) recognized the congressmen and two of their aides with the first-ever Congressional Primary Care Champion Awards. Courtney; his legislative assistant Maria Costigan; Rouzer; and his legislative director, Jason Cooke, were honored at a May 22 breakfast during the Academy's Family Medicine Advocacy Summit in Washington.

AAFP President Michael Munger, M.D., of Overland Park, Kan., presented the awards with Glen Stream, M.D., M.B.I., president and chair of Family Medicine for America's Health.

"During their time in Congress, Reps. Courtney and Rouzer, along with staffers Costigan and Cooke, have been relentless advocates for educating their colleagues about the value of primary care across the country," Munger said. "They understand that real improvements to America's health care system can come only by working across the aisle and supporting proven programs that strengthen the nation's primary care infrastructure."

Stream added, "Americans -- regardless of whether they live in a red or blue state -- want a health care system that produces healthier patients and higher-quality health care at lower costs. The recipients of the inaugural Congressional Primary Care Champions Awards recognize that primary care is integral to achieving these goals and have demonstrated a willingness to work in a bipartisan manner to promote investment in family medicine."