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Pinellas Park city manager's son testifies in capital
By VANITA GOWDA
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 9, 2000
WASHINGTON -- As a student leader, University of South Florida junior John Mudd has spoken in public dozens of times.
But last Wednesday was more than a little out of the ordinary -- he testified before a House subcommittee to urge lawmakers to provide the National Institutes of Health with more research funding for juvenile diabetes. Mudd's disease was diagnosed when he was 13 months old.
"It is because of every diabetic's personal war with this disease ... that I am here today," Mudd told the subcommittee, headed by Rep. John Edward Porter, an Illinois Republican.
A common type of diabetes is caused by the failure of the pancreas to produce an appropriate amount of insulin to metabolize glucose, or sugar, levels in the bloodstream. Normally, the pancreas releases insulin in response to the detected level of glucose. About 16-million Americans have diabetes.
Mudd's appearance before the influential panel was the latest result of his commitment to public service and community involvement. In addition to working on behalf of diabetes research, Mudd is also student council president of USF's College of Arts and Sciences as well as a school senator. He is a public relations major at the school, with -- not surprisingly -- a minor in political science.
While he learned a lot about testifying, Mudd already knew a lot about the mechanics of the political process from his student involvement. In addition, his father is Pinellas Park's city manager.
Mudd told the subcommittee about his experience with diabetes to bring a face to discussion of the disease. He has been injecting himself with insulin since he was 12. His years with diabetes have made him acutely aware of the need to look for a cure, he said.
"It makes me very appreciative and it makes me want to prevent the negative effects of this disease on anyone else," Mudd said. "I don't believe that anyone should have to live with these problems."
To that end, Mudd decided to get involved in the battle. Last fall, as part of a project for College Leadership Florida, a group of student leaders from across the state, Mudd began collecting signatures for a petition sponsored by the American Diabetes Association that called for more research funding.
With the help of classmates, he submitted about 1,500 signatures to the association.
According to the association's vice president, Mike Mawby, the original goal for the petition was 1-million signatures. But, he said, "with the help of people like John" the group collected 3.2-million signatures.
The group presented the petition to Congress at its annual "Rally for the Cure" last month in Washington. While gathering signatures, Mudd met and spoke with many other young people with juvenile diabetes. After hearing about his petition drive, some of the youngsters even e-mailed Mudd from other cities with stories about their own experiences with diabetes.
The encounters had a profound effect on Mudd. He decided he wanted to do more after he gave the ADA his signatures.
With the ADA's help, he drafted letters to Rep. C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Rocks Beach, the head of the full House Appropriations Committee, and Porter, who chairs the appropriations subcommittee that handles health issues. The appropriations committee is responsible for writing federal spending bills.
By writing to lawmakers, Mudd says he learned quite a bit about making an impact in Washington. In his letters, he told his story and asked if he could speak to lawmakers. Next thing he knew, he was on a plane to Washington to testify.
People feel out of touch with Washington, he says, "because no one tells them how to get in touch. This not something they teach you in high school civics class."
After receiving Mudd's letter, Rep. Young invited him to testify before the appropriation's committee's health panel. The subcommittee has been hearing testimony from people for weeks and will continue to do so for the next month in an effort to gather evidence before allocating funding.
Along with Mudd, a number of Florida residents testified on Wednesday, including Dr. Charles Mahan, dean of USF's College of Public Health, and Education Commissioner Tom Gallagher.
According to Harry Glen, spokesman for Rep. Young, funding for the National Institutes of Health has long been a priority of the congressman's. This year, the institutes received $17.9-billion in funding. Glen says that Rep. Young hopes to increase funding to about $27-billion. This year, the NIH will spend about $525-million on diabetes research.
Various witnesses testified on behalf of research programs for blindness, psychiatry and poisons, among others.
After testifying, Mudd had a chance to meet with Rep. Young, who thanked him for his efforts. And just as Mudd made an impression on Capitol Hill, it seems that Washington made a lasting impression on him.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.