DaVita® Stories

Advocating for Our Patients in Our Nation’s Capital

I frequently quote former justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, Louis Brandeis, who said, “The most important political office is that of the private citizen.” I believe that it is my duty, as a citizen, to fight for matters that have the potential to benefit the care of the patients we serve.

On behalf of my patients at the only DaVita dialysis center in Montana (better known as Big Sky Country!), it was quite an honor to put those words into action.

A few years ago, DaVita Great Falls welcomed, now-Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department, Ryan Zinke, who met with patients and personally listened to their journeys living with kidney disease. This past year, I was invited to be a part of Congressman Greg Gianforte’s newly established Healthcare Committee in Montana. With the help from our Government Affairs team, my participation in this forum gives my team and patients a greater voice in shaping healthcare policy that directly effects the dialysis community.

Last month, I was fortunate to be one of 20 DaVita teammates chosen to participate in the annual Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) fly-in in our nation’s capital where we spoke with federal officials about patient-centered legislation. During my visit, I bonded with a patient representing DPC from Washington State, who had been a patient for six years. He told our group how difficult his dialysis journey was in the beginning, but how he took the reins to turn his life around. He not only added exercise to his lifestyle, but now manages the gym he started training in five years ago. His passion was infectious and inspirational. It showed me why we care for our patients the way we do.

The patient and I met with staff members from U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines’ offices of Montana, as well as U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington State. We raised critical awareness about the bipartisan Dialysis PATIENTS Demonstration Act that would provide improved access to integrated care for dialysis patients. We were able to personally brief Congressman Gianforte on the importance of integrated care for patients who committed to review the legislation with his team.

Since coming back to Great Falls, Montana, I’ve shared the stories and pictures from my day on Capitol Hill with my patients and team. It is my hope that this visit encourages my federal representatives to support policies that will help improve the quality of lives for their constituents here in Montana and across the country.

Heather Smith

Heather Smith

Heather is the facility administrator in Montana’s only DaVita center. She’s been with the Village since 2011, first serving in the East Coast before venturing out to Big Sky Country. When she’s not bringing smiles to her patients and teammates, she can be seen knitting and caring for her fostered puppy that was rescued earlier this winter