Paul Rogers was chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health and the Environment from 1971 to 1978, and was instrumental in passing the National Cancer Act of 1971 and the National Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Act of 1978. He spoke with Richard Folkers of NCI's Office of Communications about the National Cancer Act.
The signing ceremony of the National Cancer Act on December 23, 1971, was an amazing moment of American bipartisanship.
It's the way we operated in those days.
What strikes you, as you look back on that day?
It went well, and everybody felt good about it. President Nixon said that he wanted to mount a drive and proposed $100 million. We finally worked out the differences between the two bodies, and I think everybody was pleased at that time with the actions taken and what should be done. We knew it would have to require good administration from the National Cancer Institute.
Why did the bill emphasize cancer centers?
We put in the bill provisions to set up geographically located cancer centers so that there would be comprehensive centers all over the nation. We wanted to do that so any information garnered here at NCI could immediately be transmitted to those cancer centers and they, in turn, could put that information to use, but also transmit it to local hospitals, so that people would begin getting upgraded care as soon as they got into the system. I think the care has been upgraded in the nation as a result of the designated Cancer Centers Program.
As a member of Congress, would a day ever go by when you didn't get a request for greater disease research funding?
Well, it's always a constant demand for more dollars. That still occurs, as you know. I think what finally resolved this was when they started saying, "Well, we will try to appropriate monies to go to institutes, and let the institute director and that facility out there decide where the priorities are."
In 1971, the word "survivor" was not used that often. How far have we come?
The knowledge has expanded tremendously from those days. And, of course, when we increased funding, that attracted so many other scientists. It was inevitable that the knowledge was going to come forth. I think NCI has handled things very well, in not being pressured just to go one particular route or the other, where they've taken a broader view of what is significant and what needs to be looked at and developed. I hope that will continue. I think it will.