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Interview with Newly-Elected AAKP President Edward V. Hickey, III

Mr. Hickey is an attorney with O’Melveny & Myers, an international 800-lawyer firm with 15 offices in the world’s financial and political centers. He is a member of the Litigation Department and Director of the firm’s eDiscovery staff attorneys, a role in which he leads all O’Melveny staff attorney operations firmwide. He served as an infantry officer in the United States Marine Corps as a lieutenant with postings in Quantico and Camp Pendleton. His distinguished public service career includes posts on Capitol Hill as an administrative assistant, as a special assistant at the United States Department of Commerce and, following the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, as the senior advisor for Homeland Security for the Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) under President George W. Bush. At OPM, Mr. Hickey also served as liaison to Veteran Service Organizations nationwide, including the Vietnam Veterans of America, AMVETS, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion. Mr. Hickey coordinated extensively with elected leaders and staff in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the White House, to represent veteran stakeholder interests in the preservation of veterans’ legal rights during reforms to U.S. Civil Service laws. He is a recipient of a Silver Helmet Award from AMVETS.

In addition to his role at O’Melveny & Myers, Mr. Hickey is actively involved with community service efforts in California through the Inner City Law Center of Los Angeles, which services veterans and their families in the Los Angeles, California, area. He is also active in the Armed Forces Committee and the Veterans Legal Service Project of the Los Angeles County Bar Association, which works to identify and address opportunities to assist veterans, active military personnel, and reservists with their legal needs.

Can you share with readers when you joined AAKP and what inspired you to get involved with the organization?

I joined AAKP in 2016. Just prior to that, I was serving as a caregiver for a family member with kidney disease and around the same time, lost a cousin, after his body rejected his third transplanted kidney. Coincidently, I was diagnosed with CKD around the same time and took that as a sign that I should get more involved in national efforts to help stop or slow the progression of this disease.

Per AAKP bylaws, the president of the organization must be a kidney patient, along with over 60 percent of its board. As a fellow chronic kidney disease patient and former caregiver whose family has a history of kidney disease, what does it mean to you to lead the oldest and largest independent patient-led kidney patient organization in the U.S.?

It’s extremely humbling and exciting at the same time. Our two previous presidents, Paul T. Conway (term 2014–2018) and Richard Knight (term 2018–2022), are friends who left some big shoes to fill. I’m extremely grateful for their efforts and ongoing support, and hope to continue their legacies. We have a tremendous team at AAKP, and I look forward to working with everyone to drive our important, strategic initiatives that advance innovation and care choice–including the Decade of the Kidney™, Patient Voice Patient Choice, and our Veterans’ Health Initiative.

Over the years as a board member and officer with AAKP, what has been one of the most meaningful projects or initiatives you were involved in, and why?

As a medically disabled United States Marine Corps (USMC) veteran, helping shape and lead the Veterans’ Health Initiative has been immensely rewarding. We are actively collaborating with VA professionals in key VA programs that directly benefit the veteran with kidney disease. AAKP is participating in several VA studies, and I serve on the executive committee of two VA initiatives on behalf of AAKP, which will lead to improved medical practices and care for kidney patients. None of that would have happened without the active support of AAKP and its patient members and their families. America’s veterans selflessly served to protect America’s freedoms–helping them in their fight against kidney diseases and supporting VA professionals is the least we can do to offer our thanks for their service to each of us.

As an AAKP board member and officer, you have met many fellow patients across the U.S. and across the world. What patient or patient story has stuck with you and inspired you to continue the fight against kidney diseases?

Two patients, actually. My cousin David and former AAKP Board Member Brian Hess. I watched the courage with which both of them met the challenges kidney disease presents and their struggle to maintain daily routines that most of us take for granted. David received his first kidney transplant at 14 years old and subsequently underwent two more transplants. He never gave up hope and always had a smile on his face. He approached each day with optimism and was a source of encouragement to others. Brian Hess was similar to David in many respects. He received his first transplant at 10 years old and subsequently received two more. I first met him on Capitol Hill for a Congressional Kidney Advocacy Day. I learned that he had dialysis equipment in his hotel room so he could dialyze and still meet with elected officials to discuss policies that would benefit patients. His contributions advanced major legislation such as the Living Donor Protection Act and the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act. When Brian spoke at AAKP’s first Global Summit on Kidney Disease Innovations at George Washington University, he received a standing ovation from doctors in attendance. For me, these two brave patients put a human face on everything that AAKP represents. We do what we do to advance the AAKP mission for the thousands of Davids and Brians across America and the globe.

What do you plan to focus your efforts on as AAKP President?

I believe as president, my focus is to work as hard as possible to advance AAKP’s core principles of greater patient care choice, protection of the doctor-patient relationship, and the acceleration of prevention and treatment innovations that transcend status quo care. To do this, we need to keep expanding our engagement among kidney patients while enlisting new allies, here in the U.S. and globally, to help push advancements in research and innovation, including artificial organs and xenotransplantation. These represent key components of AAKP’s Decade of the Kidney™ (2020–2030). I am convinced we will see tremendous advancements in life-saving drugs and innovations by the end of this decade if we become more actively engaged in research and advocacy. Further, I think AAKP has a unique role to play in addressing the disconnect between the FDA’s approval of new, safe kidney treatments and the failure of some private insurers, and in some cases CMS, to pay for these innovations and make them available to all kidney patients whose lives can be improved or saved. It is simply unacceptable that some sectors of our government and society are working to improve kidney patient outcomes while others are consciously and purposely erecting barriers that prevent timely access to innovations, exacerbate disparity, and worsen patient outcomes.

Last but not least, a question AAKP commonly asks during interviews: who would you consider your hero and why?

That is a tremendous question–American history and our modern society provide us with so many great examples of leadership and heroes. But quite frankly, my heroes are among the unsung and overlooked kidney patients who manage their disease and, despite the great challenges and burdens they face, continue to fight, and win in the daily arena of life. Each of their stories offer inspiration and sharpen my determination to make certain the independent patient voice is represented in every major national decision made about us. As we say–nothing about us, without us–and as individuals and as a community, we have a right to be heard and we owe it to every brave kidney patient who came before us to make our views known.