Patti Ruffin’s advocacy for PKD draws senator’s Health Aide to the cause


Patti Ruffin, right, with Emily Dillard, Senator Cornyn’s Health Aide

It’s important to have advocates meet with members in Congress, either in DC or in the representatives’ home office, to build a relationship and discuss legislative priorities and funding to NIH. Patti Ruffin, Volunteer Walk Coordinator for the San Antonio Chapter, knows how far the positive influence of advocating for your cause can go when these relationships are firmly established and followed attentively.

In 2012, Patti attended her first PKD advocacy meeting in DC on the Hill. After going through training, Texas constituents had an appointment with the health aide for Senator Cornyn, Emily. Patti recalls this appointment being held in the hallway outside of the Senator’s offices, and as people walked by, Emily rolled her eyes at the various interruptions. Some of Patti’s fellow advocates felt that the group was not being heard, and Emily was very kind to them in turn. The group had a great set-up about the history of PKD in their Chapters, including a man from Houston who donated a kidney to his sister in the 1970s and Patti’s own transplant story—she received a kidney from a coworker. They then gave Emily a copy of Suzanne Ruff’s The Reluctant Donor, which was signed to both her and Senator Cornyn.

The next year, Patti found her advocacy experience on the Hill to be much more encouraging. When the Texas constituents revisited the offices of Senator Cornyn, they met again with Emily. She asked how each member of the group was doing and even asked after Patti’s kidney donor. The constituents found that Emily knew much more about PKD this time around, and that she was more empathetic to their cause. They gave her a shirt from the prior year’s Walk in thanks.

In 2014, when Patti and the Texas constituents came back to Senator Cornyn’s offices, they were met with a new Health Aide instead of Emily. When the group later joined their PKD colleagues to support the PKD Awareness Day in Congress, Patti ran into Emily. After having met with the Texas constituents two years in a row and hearing their stories, Emily had been inspired to also lobby for PKD and the Foundation’s cause that year.