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Health Research Loses Faithful Supporter

By Eddy Ball
November 2008

Paul G. Rogers
Former Representative Paul G. Rogers spoke at a Research!America Annual Meeting in March 2008 at the National Press Club in Washington. (Photo courtesy of Heather Jameson and Research!America)

On October 15, the health research community was saddened to learn of the death of retired U.S. Congressman Paul Rogers, 87, two days earlier at a hospital in Washington Rogers, known as “Mr. Health” in legislative circles, was an enthusiastic and persistent advocate of legislation to improve the environment and healthcare, as well as promote the aggressive expansion of biomedical research at several ICs within the NIH, including NIEHS.

Rogers was widely quoted as saying ,"Without research, there is no hope" — a statement now set in a marker on the NIH campus. In recognition of his advocacy for greater funding for research, in June 2001, Congress dedicated the plaza in front of Building 1 at NIH the Paul G. Rogers Plaza.

After they learned of his death, NIEHS Acting Director Sam Wilson, M.D., and NIH Director Elias Zerhouni, M.D., issued statements about Roger’s contributions to medical research and expressed their condolences to his widow, Becky, and daughter, and the Rogers family.

“Paul played a key role in advancing the field of Environmental Health Sciences to include supporting the NIEHS request to establish an Institute of Medicine (IOM) Roundtable on EHS Research and Medicine in 1998,” Wilson observed in his message to NIEHS employees. “It is with great respect and gratitude that we remember this special man and recognize his important legacy to environmental health research.”

A Democrat who represented West Palm Beach, Fla. for 12 terms, Rogers was a member of Congress from 1955 to 1979 and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment for eight years. During that time, he sponsored or was instrumental in the passage of some of the most important pieces of health- and environment-related legislation introduced in the House of Representatives.

In his statement, Zerhouni pointed to several of Roger’s key accomplishments, including his significant role in doubling the NIH budget over a five-year period. “Some of the prominent pieces of legislation which Paul sponsored and played a major role in enacting are the National Cancer Act of 1971 and 1977; the Heart, Blood Vessel, Lung and Blood Act; the Research on Aging Act; the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970; the Emergency Medical Services Act; the Clean Air Act; Safe Drinking Water Act; and the Radiation Health Safety Act,” Zerhouni said.

In recent years, Rogers channeled much of his energy into health advocacy through the organization Research!America ( Exit NIEHS, where he served as a board member and chair emeritus. Research!America is the nation's largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy alliance that works with more than 500 member organizations, representing a vast array of medical, health and scientific fields. In 2006 Research!America established the Paul G. Rogers Society for Global Health Research with founding support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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