Congressional Champions of Kidney Patients to Receive President’s Medal

Left: Tom Marino, Right: Jim McDermott
Two distinguished members of Congress will each receive a President’s Medal for championing the cause of kidney patients and research in a special presentation during the plenary session on Saturday, Nov. 15.

Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.) and Tom Marino (R-Pa.) are the co-chairs of the Congressional Kidney Caucus, which Rep. McDermott co-founded in 2002. The purpose of the bipartisan caucus is to educate members of Congress and the public about the problem kidney disease poses for society and the federal government’s role in providing access to life-sustaining treatment for those with severe disease.

The two have deep personal interests in kidney conditions. Rep. Marino is a two-time survivor of kidney cancer. Rep. McDermott is not only a medical doctor, but he trained with his friend the legendary Belding Scribner in Seattle around the time that dialysis was invented.

As co-chairs of the Congressional Kidney Caucus, Reps. Marino and McDermott have raised awareness of kidney disease and the importance of increased investment in kidney research on Capitol Hill. They provided crucial early support for the Kidney Health Initiative and served as honorary co-hosts of several ASN congressional briefings on kidney disease research. They supported home dialysis patients by encouraging the secretary of health and human services to update training payments for home dialysis and by requesting a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on the key factors that affect home dialysis use. They also agreed to partner in ASN’s efforts to request a GAO report assessing the adequacy of the federal investment in combating kidney disease.

When he joined the Congressional Kidney Caucus, Rep. Marino said: “By sharing my personal experiences with other members of Congress, we will increase the awareness and understanding of the circumstances that face millions of Americans who suffer from kidney disease.” He also co-chairs the Cystic Fibrosis Caucus and the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.

Rep. Marino first ran for Congress in 2010, winning a three-way Republican primary and then defeating a two-term Democratic incumbent by ten percentage points. Prior to entering politics, he worked in manufacturing. When he was passed over for a promotion, he realized the importance of a college degree, so at 30 years old he enrolled in college. He earned his bachelor’s and law degrees in five year.

He practiced law for several years before being elected to two terms as Lycoming County district attorney. He later served as U.S. attorney for the middle district of Pennsylvania.

After completing his medical training, Rep. McDermott joined the U.S. Navy and was assigned to Long Beach Naval Station. He then moved to Seattle to pursue his specialty in psychiatry at the University of Washington Medical Center. He was soon elected to the state legislature, and he split his time to continue to practice medicine.

He served as a medical officer in the U.S. Foreign Service in 1987, and was assigned to Zaire. He returned home to run for the U.S. congressional seat representing the Seattle area in 1988, and is now serving his twelfth term. He is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which enables him to play an influential role in a wide range of issues, including Medicare.

Rep. McDermott supports the establishment of a single-payer healthcare system, and is working to increase the number of primary care doctors and decrease the costs of high-quality health care.