2000 Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award

Legislative leadership for public health

When the political history of medical research is written, it will highlight John Porter's role as the leading champion of American medicine and biomedical research during outstanding years of service, since 1980, in the United States House of Representatives. Congressman Porter's commitment, hard work, and passion on behalf of medical research have successfully garnered and sustained the largest funding increases in the history of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee, John Porter has been one of the most articulate and untiring spokespersons for increasing federal support of biomedical research. In 1995, when many lawmakers were voting to reduce the budget of most government agencies, Congressman Porter fought for increased funding for medical research. Instead of cutting the NIH budget by 5 percent, Congress increased the agency's budget by 5 percent. In September, 1997, Congressman Porter was the first lawmaker to endorse the concept of doubling the NIH budget by 2003. In 1999, despite intense partisanship, budgetary constraints, and a year-long debate over different priorities, Congress increased the NIH budget by $2.3 billion for fiscal year 2000 — it's second consecutive $2 billion-plus boost — bringing the agency's current total budget to nearly $18 billion.

Congressman Porter's success lies in impassioned, informed advocacy. He possesses a masterful ability to translate medical research, science, and technological advances into a language that leaders can understand, apply to their own lives and relate to the economic future of our country. He has worked skillfully behind the scenes to educate his colleagues about obstacles to science progress and to the promises of research in terms of prevention, treatment and cure for mankind's most dreaded diseases. He initiated day trips to NIH for members of Congress to see firsthand the research underway and to better understand the potential of this research to improve human life. His inclusive, intelligent appeal has earned him the deepest respect of congressional colleagues and the medical research community.

John Porter's enlightened approach to the need for American's long-term investment in fundamental biomedical research has set a superb standard for all elected officials. With his announced intention to retire from Congress at the end of this year — after 20 years of service representing Chicago's north and northwest suburbs — Congressman Porter's legacy will be increased hope for millions who suffer from life-threatening and debilitating diseases, that they will be spared by advances in medical science.

This Lasker Award honors John Porter for his dedicated support of policy initiatives that have strengthened the biomedical research enterprise and have secured its immediate future.