Newswise — Park Ridge, Ill. -- The American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) will recognize Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) as the winner of its Health Leadership Award for 2022 at its Mid-Year Assembly, to be held in Washington, D.C., April 2-6.

The Health Leadership Award was established in 1922 and is presented to an individual working at the federal government level who had made a significant contribution to the formation of national health policy. The award recognizes the individual’s support in this process for the vital role that Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) play in providing access to cost-effective, quality anesthesia services.

During his tenure in Congress, Luján has long championed the need to increase healthcare access in rural and underserved communities, the importance of access to non-opioid and opioid sparing pain management treatments, and the removal of barriers to care.

As a member of Congress and the Senate, Luján was instrumental in helping with provider nondiscrimination efforts, as a way to improve on the Affordable Care Act and increase access to care. He has also stood against Medicare administrative contractors who seek to limit access to the non-opioid or opioid-sparing pain management techniques provided by CRNAs.

Luján was a cosponsor of the Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act to increase access to life-saving medication assisted treatments (MATs) by allowing more providers, including CRNAs and other APRNs to prescribe MATs such as buprenorphine to treat opioid use disorder, acute pain, and chronic pain. He has supported efforts to increase access to maternal care and telehealth for rural communities, to address health disparities, and to provide mental health resources to patients and providers alike.

“Senator Luján has been a steadfast supporter of CRNAs in New Mexico and around the country, as we seek to eliminate barriers to care for rural and underserved populations,” said AANA President Dina Velocci, DNP, CRNA, APRN. “In both the House and Senate, he has taken a leadership role on these critical issues, and we thank him for his years of selfless service.”

As advanced practice nurses, CRNAs are members of one of the most trusted professions according to Gallup.  CRNAs provide anesthesia care across all settings and in all patient populations and are the primary anesthesia providers in rural and underserved areas and on the battlefield in forward surgical teams. Because of their expertise in anesthesia care and management of critically ill patients, CRNAs have been a highly sought-after healthcare provider during the COVID-19 pandemic.