WASHINGTON, D.C.--The Senate's approval of David Satcher for U.S. Surgeon General here yesterday will fill a void in biomedical policy-making and reclaim the nation's bully pulpit for public health, vacant for the past 3 years. Satcher, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta since 1993, will hold a dual job as surgeon general and assistant secretary for health in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
A physician with a Ph.D. in cytogenetics, Satcher has spent much of his career in community health and served as president of historically black Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, from 1982 to 1993. Some Senate Republicans objected to his appointment, citing his opposition to a ban on late-term abortions and his advocacy of needle exchange studies for reducing the spread of HIV. But many medical groups as well as some prominent Republicans backed Satcher, and he was confirmed 63 to 35. "Knowing the man, the doctor, the teacher, and the administrator, this nomination is a perfect fit," said Morehouse School of Medicine president Louis Sullivan, former HHS secretary.
Expected to be high on Satcher's agenda as surgeon general is legislation to promote education on smoking. As assistant health secretary, he will advise HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and oversee offices on AIDS and scientific misconduct.
Also under Satcher's purview is the Office on Women's Health--until recently headed by psychiatrist Susan Blumenthal, who left last fall after a controversy over her handling of breast cancer research issues. That job was filled last week by a Satcher colleague: public health expert Wanda Kaye Jones, who previously headed the CDC's women's health office.