Lasker Statue

Warren Magnuson

United States Senate

For his outstanding leadership and support of medical research and health legislation for the people of the United States.

In 1937, when you first took your seat as a member of the House of Representatives, federal support of medical research was non-existent. In that very year you joined with your colleague, the late Senator Homer Bone of Washington, in the sponsorship of a bill to create the National Cancer Institute. Over the years, you labored for the support of additional Institutes targeted against the major killers and cripplers of our people.

Today the National Institutes of Health budget is approximately one and one-half billion dollars. It is the largest medical research enterprise in the world, and the research accomplishments made possible by this expanded budget are acclaimed by scientists throughout the world.

More than three decades ago, when you co-sponsored the historic National Cancer Act, only one in eight victims of cancer was being saved, and the life span of the average American was sixty years. The life span now is seventy years. We are now saving one in three victims of cancer, and we could reduce this to one in two if we applied the knowledge we now have to all of our people.

Time does not permit a listing of your many legislative accomplishments as a member of both the House of Representatives and the United States Senate.

Early in your career as a Senator, you rose to the chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee which had jurisdiction over the Veterans Administration. Through countless days of hearings, you brought forth documentation to the effect that the vast VA hospital system was spending only a pittance of its annual appropriation for medical research to save lives and return our veterans to productive living. You corrected that.

Just to cite one example, in the late 1960s, Dr. Edward Freis, senior medical research investigator for the Veterans Administration, proved conclusively that the treatment, with proper medications, of even moderately high blood pressure, would achieve a dramatic reduction of deaths from stroke and heart attack. At the present time, high blood pressure afflicts 23 million Americans. For his painstaking and life-saving work, Dr. Freis received the 1971 Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical. But the work of Dr. Freis in the late 1960s would not have been possible without the increased appropriations for VA medical research generated by you in the decade before Dr. Freis began his work.

When Senator Lister Hill of Alabama, who had chaired so effectively both the legislative and appropriations health subcommittees in the Senate for fourteen years, stepped down from office in 1968, many of us in the health field were in a state of despair. But, as the major speaker at the twenty-fourth Albert D. Lasker Medical Research Awards Luncheon in New York in November 1969, you put joy in our hearts when you told the audience that you “did not intend to drop the torch so nobly carried over the past 14 years by my illustrious predecessor.”

You have not dropped the torch. You have carried on the battle for increased health appropriations with a rare combination of human compassion and political skill.

So to you, Senator Magnuson, for saving and enriching the lives of countless Americans through your legislative efforts, the Albert Lasker Public Service Award in Health is given.