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In Tribute: Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Friend of NIH

Senator Edward M. Kennedy and Dr. Francis Collins

Sen. Edward Kennedy (r) confers with Dr. Francis Collins, who was then director of the National Center for Human Genome Research, at a December 2006 meeting.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy

Shown (from left) are Sen. Kennedy's sister, Jean Kennedy Smith, wife, Vicki Kennedy, Sen. Kennedy and his sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, at last year's ceremony renaming the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in Shriver's honor.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Friend of NIH
"… deep compassion for those in need."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) died of brain cancer on August 25, 2009. Throughout his 47 years in the Senate he battled for the disabled, the poor, the uninsured, and medically and emotionally disadvantaged.

Paying tribute to Kennedy, NIH Director Francis S. Collins said, "Sen. Kennedy was an amazing man—a genuine force of nature. His deep compassion for those in need, and his commitment to improving people's health, are reflected in the innumerable legislative acts that he championed throughout his long, distinguished career in the Senate. He was one of the strongest, most effective advocates for biomedical research."

Kennedy was a champion for cancer research early in his career. In 1971, he was the first member of Congress to introduce legislation that came to be known as the War on Cancer. Through the years, he continued to support cancer research legislation. He had been working with others on renewing the War on Cancer before he was struck down with it himself in May 2008.

In 1987, Kennedy held the first-ever congressional hearing on AIDS. He called it "nothing less than a plague for our times" and a "global epidemic that has already strained the capacity … to respond with common sense, let alone compassion."

He was also a cosponsor of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). It became a law in 2008 after a legislative battle lasting 13 years. Kennedy was a tireless supporter and activist for this bill, which he described as the "first major new civil rights bill of the new century."

Fall 2009 Issue: Volume 4 Number 4 Page 26