Looking Back on HHS-NCI Collaborations
When I came to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in January 2002, I was privileged to join a consortium of agencies guided by the dynamic leadership of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson. Secretary Thompson has supported NCI's strategic commitment to eliminate the suffering and death due to cancer and initiated steps that would enable us to accomplish this by 2015. Our shared vision also included the belief that the fruits of scientific progress must ultimately be spread beyond our nation's borders and benefit the entire world.
Over the past 3 years, I've had the pleasure of working with the Secretary on a number of critical initiatives, including international cancer programs, prevention initiatives, bioterrorism research and planning, advanced technology programs, HHS public health efforts, and interagency collaborations.
As Secretary Thompson embarks on a new career after his successful stewardship of HHS, I want to highlight a few of these initiatives and the crucial role that Secretary Thompson and the Department have played in their planning and implementation. On behalf of my colleagues at NCI, I also offer our deep gratitude and sincere best wishes to Secretary Thompson for the future.
The Secretary played an important role in supporting the President's initiatives promoting global health and its contribution to the economy and security of nations. He worked closely with NCI on several international programs, recognizing the growing global burden of cancer. He led delegations, which I was able to join, to Iraq, Jordan, and Russia.
The 2004 delegation to Iraq assessed infrastructure needs for health care. We saw first-hand the achievements of HHS agencies in the rebuilding of Iraq. I was also honored to lead a roundtable with the new Minister of Health of Iraq, the Honorable Dr. Ala'adin Al-Alwan.
Last February, Secretary Thompson and I joined officials from the King Hussein Cancer Center in Jordan, a regional cancer treatment facility that is now saving the lives of many cancer patients from around the Middle East. During our visit, we saw the launch of a state-of-the-art telemedicine system and met with Iraqi children with cancer who were doing well, receiving treatment that would not have been available only a few years ago.
On the home front, HHS has enlisted NCI's help in some national initiatives. When the Interagency Committee on Smoking and Health's Subcommittee on Cessation published its recommendations in February 2004, Secretary Thompson began to address the recommendations by tasking NCI and CDC with developing a national network of tobacco cessation quitlines. On November 10, 2004, the National Network of Tobacco Cessation Quitlines was launched. The toll-free phone number (1-800-QUIT NOW) puts callers in touch with programs that can help them give up tobacco.
Secretary Thompson was also involved with the CEO Cancer Gold Standard, which calls for corporations to actively reduce their employees' risk of cancer through workplace programs. NCI intends to continue these and other collaborations that Secretary Thompson has supported.
With this in mind, we are delighted to welcome another former governor as the new HHS Secretary. Mike Leavitt also comes to the Department after a distinguished career in which he demonstrated that he knows the importance of continuing to strengthen the health care system and to serve the well-being of the American people at all levels of our society and in all communities.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach