Kansas Common Sense
Welcome to “Kansas Common Sense.” Thank you for your continued interest in receiving my weekly newsletter. I spent this week traveling throughout our state, listening to Kansans and getting feedback on issues we face in Washington. I spent time this week visiting with folks in Johnson, Riley, Leavenworth, Doniphan, Geary, Coffey, Ellis, Shawnee and Franklin Counties. You can read more about visits below. Please feel free to forward this newsletter on to your family and friends if it would interest them.
Inviting the Director of the National Cancer Institute to Kansas
On Friday, I hosted Dr. Harold Varmus, Director of the National Cancer Institute (NCI), in Kansas City to tour cancer research facilities in the area and meet with local cancer researchers, doctors and scientists. NCI is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and is the United States’ primary agency for cancer research and training. Dr. Varmus leads our nation’s effort to reduce the burden of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients and their families. He is a Nobel Laureate for studies of the genetic basis of cancer, and previously served as President and CEO of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and as director of NIH. I serve as a member of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over the budgets of NCI and NIH. I am honored that Dr. Varmus accepted my invitation to see firsthand how Kansas has become a leader in advancing medical research to overcome cancer and other devastating diseases and I thank him for making this trip.
Friday’s tour included the following meetings in the Kansas City area:
- Visiting Children’s Mercy Hospital – The day began with a visit to Children’s Mercy Hospital, which has one of the largest pediatric cancer programs in the country. At any given time, Children’s Mercy is participating in 80-100 trials to test and develop new ways to prevent and treat diseases that affect children. Trial groups include the Children’s Oncology Group, the Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant Consortium, and an experimental therapeutics research program designed to leverage Children’s Mercy’s unique strength in pediatric pharmacology to help fight cancer. During the visit, we learned that the hospital has just begun a promising study of a new technique for quickly analyzing the DNA of newborns, zeroing in on mutations that can cause disease to more effectively diagnosis and treat a child. Thanks to Dr. Randall O’Donnell, hospital President and CEO, Dr. Charles Roberts, Executive Vice President and Executive Medical Officer, and the rest of the Children’s Mercy team for organizing our tour.
During my visit to Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City today, I had the chance to meet with Kerry and April Tiernan of Hays and their 2-year-old son Kayden, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. Kayden is currently undergoing treatment in Children’s Mercy’s renowned pediatric oncology unit.
Click here to see a photos from my visit with the Tiernans.
It is encouraging to know that Kansas families like the Tiernans have access to world-class care and medical professionals in our region. I was also encouraged to hear how supportive the Tiernans’ friends and family have been during this difficult time. You can learn more about Kayden and his family here: http://www.hdnews.net/Story/toddlercancer100312
- Touring the KU Clinical Research Center – After Children’s Mercy, Dr. Varmus and I drove to Fairway, Kansas to tour the University of Kansas Clinical Research Center (CRC) at the Johnson County Research and Education Triangle. We were joined by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and KU Cancer Center Director Dr. Roy Jensen. This was Dr. Varmus’ first visit since the KU Cancer Center earned NCI designation in July of this year. At the CRC, KU conducts clinical trials designed to identify safer and more effective approaches to prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer. These cancer clinical trials provide access to potential advancements in care and lead to medical innovations in cancer prevention and treatment. This 82,400-square-foot building, which was donated by the Hall Family Foundation, has state-of-the-art features that give Kansans and others in the region access to the latest clinical trials close to home. Thanks to Dr. Jensen, Dr. Doug Girod, Dr. Ray Perez and Dr. Scott Weir for giving us a tour.
- Cancer Research Forum – Following the tour of the CRC, I introduced Dr. Varmus to a large audience interested in cancer research at a forum entitled "Understanding Cancer as Rare Diseases” at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research. This forum provided us the opportunity to visit with area scientists, researchers, patient advocates and biomedical business leaders about the importance of supporting medical research at the local, state and national levels. During my introduction, I discussed how NCI designation is a tremendous achievement for the University of Kansas Cancer Center that will enable KU’s patients to have access to the most advanced cancer care close to home and better position KU to recruit the brightest researchers to develop cutting-edge treatments and cures right here in Kansas. Our students, who previously had to leave our state to conduct this high-level research, now will have new opportunities to stay home in Kansas and make their mark in improving the world. This accomplishment will also have a transformative effect on our state’s economy, enabling Kansas to continue developing into a research powerhouse for medical, pharmaceutical and technological advancement. NCI designation would not have been possible without strong support from the local community in Kansas City and across our state. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have the responsibility of working to craft a responsible federal budget. I have and will continue to advocate for fiscal responsibility in our federal government, and I will also prioritize the programs that effectively serve the American people. I believe our nation’s consistent support of medical research is essential to saving and improving lives, growing our economy, and maintaining America’s role as a global leader in medical innovation. Click here to see photos of this forum.
- Thanking KU Cancer Center Contributors – After the forum, we were invited to the home of Joe and Jeanne Brandmeyer for a reception honoring Dr. Varmus and all those in the Kansas City community that worked to make NCI designation a reality. This wonderful achievement would not have been possible without strong community support and generosity and I am grateful that Dr. Varmus was able to see this support firsthand. Thank you to the Brandmeyers for welcoming us into their beautiful home.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
On Monday, I met with General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during his stop at Fort Riley – one of several scheduled visits to military bases he had to meet with service members and their families. When General Dempsey and I arrived we were given a warm welcome by Lieutenant Colonel Mike Ernst and the Fire Chief Scott Delay. Fort Riley’s Senior Commander, Brigadier General Donald MacWillie, was able to join our discussion which covered topics including sequestration, the current budget environment, and the potential for another round of BRAC in years to come. General Dempsey and I had a good conversation about the value of all four military installations in Kansas and supporting the Active Duty, Reserve and National Guard at McConnell Air Force Base, Fort Leavenworth, Forbes Airfield and Fort Riley. It was a pleasure to meet with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I look forward to working with him in the future. Click here to see of photo of us with LTC Ernst and Chief Delay.
Briefing from The 27 Committee
On Tuesday, I visited with members of The 27 Committee, a bi-state regional development organization comprised of civic leaders from greater Kansas City whose mission it is to support Ft. Leavenworth and its neighboring communities. The Committee discussed its plans for making certain Ft. Leavenworth remains a leading military base given its valuable mission and the mutually beneficial economic partnership it has with the community. I learned a great deal from my visit, and I look forward to continuing to work to support and promote Ft. Leavenworth and the surrounding region alongside The 27 Committee and other Kansas leaders. Thanks to Jerry Reilly, Colonel Dick Gibson (Ret.), Colonel Bob Ulin (Ret.), General Robert Arter (Ret.), General Rich Keller (Ret), Rick Berger and Colonel Rolly Dessert (Ret.) for the informative discussion.
Visiting the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center
On Monday, I had the opportunity to visit the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan. The center is being constructed on the north campus of Kansas State University and will house research and office space as well as state of the art air conditioned greenhouse space and an industrial test kitchen. The complex will give the Kansas Wheat Commission, Kansas Association of Wheat Growers, and Heartland Plant Innovations the tools they need to develop new technologies that will better serve farmers and ultimately consumers. Their goal is to discover and commercialize new varieties that will help producers maximize quality and yields.
The majority of the funding for this project came from Kansas wheat farmers who saw the need for further investment in the future of wheat and wheat research. This is a good example of a public-private partnership that will have a great impact of the future of the wheat industry and consumers alike. Thank you to Justin Gilpin, CEO; Bill Spiegel, Kansas Wheat Commission; Dalton Henry, Director of Governmental Affairs; and Aaron Harries, Director of Marketing for the informative tour. Click here to see a photo.
Touring the Target Distribution Center in Topeka
On Wednesday, I was in Topeka to tour the Target Distribution Center, where I enjoyed visiting with employees and seeing the warehouse operations. Workers like those at the distribution facility represent the lifeblood of America’s economy. Topeka is home to one of thirty-seven Target Distribution Centers which receive shipments of store merchandise from suppliers and ship products directly to Target stores. The Topeka facility has been an asset to the community since it opened in 2004 and it now employees nearly 500 Kansans. Thanks to Dawn Wright of GOTopeka and Mayor Bill Bunten who joined me on the tour. Thanks also to General Manager Hans Carttar and Tim Heit for a good discussion and for showing me around. Click here to see photos.
Turner House Breakfast
On Thursday morning, I started the day at the Kicks 4 Kids KC Breakfast benefiting Turner House Children's Clinic (THCC) held at Livestrong Sporting Park. Their mission for 22 years has been to provide quality primary health care to uninsured and underserved children in the Kansas City area. As the facility and number of patients they care for continues to grow, Executive Director Janet Burton was excited to announce that THCC has been named a Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home by the National Council on Quality Assurance (NCQA). NCQA awards this recognition to practices that have worked to establish a health care setting that fosters effective doctor-patient relationships. THCC is a great example of the community working together to provide health care for those in need. Thank you to Janet Burton for the invitation to attend the event. Click here to see a photo.
Troy High School Visit
On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet with teachers and administrators at Troy High School and learn more about their efforts to provide students with a high quality education. School teachers and administrators play a critically important role in making certain our children develop the skills necessary to be successful in life. The future competitiveness of our state and nation is directly linked to the quality of our children’s education.
During my visit to Troy High School, I had a useful visit with the director of the school lunch program and a class of 8th graders who are writing to Washington, D.C., officials with their concerns with the new USDA nutrition guidelines. A common concern I hear is that mandates from the federal government place considerable strain on the central mission of our schools: educating our children. Since parents and teachers know best the educational needs of their children and students, Congress should be focused on empowering decision making at the local level, not saddling our schools with more burdensome mandates. Thanks again to William Boeh, a Junior and a member of student council, for being my tour guide. Click here to see a photo.
Visiting the Community of Wellsville
On my way to Burlington, I had the opportunity to spend time in Wellsville, and stop by City Hall and USD 289 in addition to several local businesses: Casey’s General Store, the Veterinary Clinic, Auburn Pharmacy, Landmark National Bank, Trimmers Salon, Equitable and Layton Real Estate. Thanks to Kim Hoehn, Realtor, and Barbara Layton-Kearney, Broker, at Layton Real Estate for being so welcoming. Communities like Wellsville are what make Kansas such a special place. Thanks to everyone in town for their hospitality and for giving me their thoughts on the state of our nation. Click here to see a photo.
Speaking at Burlington Rotary
On Thursday afternoon, I spoke to the Burlington Rotary Club at Coffey County Hospital. It was great to visit with Kansans during lunch and discuss many important issues facing our state and nation including the impact of government regulation on the economy and the need for education to be less focused on preparation for tests and more on knowledge and job skills. Rotarians also shared their concerns with the recent “Citizens United” Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance law, and the future of tax rates in light of the possible expiration of the Bush era tax cuts. Thanks to Burlington Rotary Club President James Higgins for being so welcoming. Click here to see a photo.
Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant Briefing
Following my visit with the Burlington Rotary Club, I headed to neighboring New Strawn where I attended a briefing with Westar Energy, KC Power & Light and KS Electric Power Cooperatives, regarding Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant. The discussion focused on the operation, ownership, and ongoing safety commitment at the facility. I also had the opportunity to tour the control room simulator they use it for training. Thanks to Wolf Creek CEO, Matt Sunseri, for the tour and informative visit. Thanks also to Doug Sturbenz, Chief Operating Officer for Westar Energy; Les Evans, President and C.O.O. for Kansas Electric Power Cooperative; and to Scott Heidtbrink, Executive Vice President and C.O.O., and Paul Snider, Senior Manager of Government Affairs – both representing KCP&L – for the candid discussion. Click here to see a photo.
Celebrating Homecoming 2012 at FHSU
On Saturday, I was in Hays for Fort Hays State University’s (FHSU) 2012 Homecoming parade, and enjoyed visiting with the many alumni and students who were participating in “A Celebration of Tiger Nation.” Thank you to FHSU President Edward Hammond and the Alumni Association for putting together another successful homecoming celebration. Also, thanks to Don and Sharon Barton for providing a car for me to ride in during the parade. Click here to view photos from the homecoming events.
In the Office
This week we had several visitors in the Washington, D.C., office, including the Kansans listed below:
American General Contractors of Kansas
Mike Gibson of Topeka
David Snodgrass of Wichita
Gregg Oblinger of Wichita
Harvest the Wind Network
Haley Estes Roberto of Greensburg
Aaron Morrow of Greensburg
Kay Brada of Lawrence
Summons 2012 Conference
Donna Lippoldt of Wichita
Earl Pickard of Hutchinson
Bonnie Parker of Wichita
Kansas National Educators Association
Bob Thesman of Kansas City
Kim Howard of Wichita
Many Kansans stopped by to take a tour of the US Capitol this week including:
Thomas & Betty Cyphers
Jim & Helen Schippert
Dan & Teresa Baker
David Murrey and Genny Goree
Tanya Thomas and children
It is an honor to serve you in Washington, D.C. Please let me know how I can be of assistance. To send me an email, click here. You can also click here to contact me through one of my Kansas offices or my Washington, D.C., office.
Very truly yours,
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