Arlen Specter, 1930-2012

Former Senator Arlen Specter, both Republican and Democrat from Pennsylvania passed earlier this week after a recurrence of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  He was 82.

Senator Specter warrants mention in these pages for his championing of federal funding for biomedical research.  He could be counted on to try and commit as many resources as possible to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  In one of his last major legislative efforts Specter sought to set the budget floor of NIH to $40 billion.  That didn’t go through, but he can be credited with providing the agency over $10 billion in the economic stimulus package.

As this 2008 article in NIH MedlinePlus indicates, health issues, cancer in particular, have affected Specter personally for a long time.  Even so, he never served as chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.  He came to the Senate as a lawyer and former prosecutor, and preliminary plans for a public policy institute in his name do not suggest an emphasis on his advocacy for biomedical research.  I would not be surprised to see a building or program somewhere on the NIH campus bear his name sometime in the next year.

Safe Home, Senator.

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