WASHINGTONTwo effective advocates for biomedical research who are retiring from Congress were honored by two advocacy groups for their support of increased funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
Rep. John Porter (R-Ill) and Sen. Connie Mack (R-Fla) received the first- ever Legacy Award from the National Coalition for Cancer Research (NCCR) during an evening reception. They were also presented the Lifetime Award of the Cancer Research Foundation of Americas Congressional Families Action for Cancer Awareness at a luncheon.
Rep. Porter, a 22-year member of Congress, has served for the last several Congresses as chair of the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the NIH budget. He was honored for his significant contributions to the battle against cancer, particularly his leadership in the House in the effort to double the NIH budget over 5 years.
Sen. Mack, who also served in the House, is retiring after two terms in the US Senate. The Senator, a cancer survivor himselfas is his wife, Priscillawas honored for originating the idea of doubling the NIH budget and with providing strong leadership for cancer issues on Capitol Hill.
During his remarks at the NCCR reception, Rep. Porter said he expected the fiscal year budget to include about a 15% increase, for the third year in a row, in the NIH and NCI budgets. But he warned that continued increases are never certain. He urged advocacy groups to continue lobbying Congress to ensure that the dream of doubling NIHs funding will become a reality.
Even with the extraordinary increases in funding for NCI and funding for NIH in general, we are still falling behind in the funding of the good science that is available, Rep. Porter said. We are not even keeping up with the scientific opportunities, even though were doubling the funding for NIH. Thats how fast the science is increasing.
He also warned that the advocacy community and Congress must look ahead. We have to ask ourselves at this time, when we complete doubling the funding for NIH, what are we going to do then to make certain this remains a very high priority to capture as much as possible of the very good science that is out there, Rep. Porter said.
Rep. Porter noted that some people still question whether the funds provided to NIH are well spent. This money is being better spent than anywhere else in government and it is buying good science, the congressman said. The chances for scientific breakthroughs have never been better.
Sen. Mack acknowledged at the NCCR reception that the notion of doubling the NIH budget sprang more from emotion than scientific analysis. He said the idea emerged during a hearing at which he heard testimony from Travis Roy, a Boston College student rendered quadriplegic by an injury in his first collegiate hockey game.
When asked about his dream, he said that he hoped someday to be able to hug his mother, and that is where the idea came from: lets double researcha very scientific approach that I used to get that number, the Senator quipped. I suspect that there was a great sense that thats a great idea, but it is never going to happen. Well, because we believed in what we were doing, and because of organizations like yours, it is, in fact, going to happen.
NCCR also presented Congressional Champion Awards to Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-Tex), Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass), Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio), Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa), and Rep. C. W. Bill Young (R-Fla).
Awards also presented at the Cancer Research Foundation of America (CRFA) luncheon were:
Spouse Award: Tamra Bentsen, wife of Rep. Bentsen, and Jill Biden, wife of Sen. Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-Del).
Advocate Award: Ruth Ann LaMott and Barbara Raehl, creators of a program at Munson Medical Center, Traverse City, Michigan, that helps guide breast cancer patients after they receive their diagnosis.
Media Award: Shirley Ruedy, health columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette in Iowa.