Rep. Donald Payne Jr., D-NJ, has been representing the 10th congressional district of New Jersey which includes the Newark area and the thriving life-sciences community in the region since 2012. Payne Jr. ran to serve in the seat that his father, the late Rep. Donald M. Payne, D-NJ, held for eleven terms until his untimely death in March 2012. The elder Payne succumbed to colon cancer one month after his initial diagnosis, and Payne Jr. has made it his personal mission since assuming his father’s seat to increase awareness of colorectal cancer screenings. In fact, shortly after entering office, Payne Jr. wrote an op-ed with AGA member Carla Ginsburg, MD, MPH, AGAF, on the importance of screening, relaying in deeply personal terms the cost of not getting screened.
Payne Jr. also made it a top priority to push national awareness of colon cancer screening beyond the halls of Congress. To that end, Payne Jr. successfully lobbied the Obama administration in 2014 to designate March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month — the first colorectal cancer presidential proclamation in over than a decade. The presidential proclamation was subsequently reissued in both 2015 and 2016 by the Obama administration and in 2018 and 2019 by the Trump administration. Additionally, Payne Jr. introduces a resolution in the House of Representatives every year to designate March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month in an effort to further promote awareness and educational activities of colorectal cancer screening in the chamber.
Most importantly, Payne Jr. is the lead champion of legislative efforts in the House to increase access to colorectal cancer screenings. Specifically, Payne Jr. is the lead sponsor of H.R. 1570, the Removing Barriers to Colorectal Cancer Screening Act, legislation that has been one of AGA’s top policy priorities. The legislation, which enjoys broad bipartisan support with over 300 co-sponsors in the House, would correct the Medicare beneficiary coinsurance issue when a screening colonoscopy becomes therapeutic. He also is a strong supporter of biomedical research funding, noting in an op-ed with former Rep. Charlie Dent, R-PA, that “scientists need stable, consistent and robust funding to ensure that we can continue … breakthroughs for the colorectal cancer community and beyond.”
AGA looks forward to continuing to work with Payne Jr. and his office in the 116th Congress on these critical issues and on policies impacting our patients and the field of gastroenterology.