UMWA, NIH Chiefs Pay Tribute to Specter

"His outrage at the needless deaths and injuries in the nation's coal mines led him to take a leadership role in improving mine health and safety laws," UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said of the late former Sen. Arlen Specter.

Cecil E. Roberts, international president of the United Mine Workers of America, and Francis S. Collins, MD, Ph.D., director of the National Institutes of Health, both issued statements praising former U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania after his death on Oct. 14.

"I was saddened to learn of Sunday's passing of Sen. Arlen Specter. For as long as I knew him, Sen. Specter never once wavered in his support of coal miners and their jobs, no matter which political party he affiliated himself with," Roberts said. "His outrage at the needless deaths and injuries in the nation's coal mines led him to take a leadership role in improving mine health and safety laws. He never hesitated to call those responsible for mine fatalities and injuries to task, whether they were mine operators who failed to operate safe mines or government officials who failed to enforce safety and health laws in our mines. Arlen Specter was a friend of coal miners and their families, and he was a friend of mine. The entire membership of the UMWA joins me in extending our heartfelt condolences to his family."

Collins' statement read, "I am greatly saddened by the death of former Senator Arlen Specter, who over the course of his illustrious career served as a towering champion for biomedical research and the mission of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Our thoughts are with Arlen's wife Joan, his children, grandchildren, and the many others who worked with him over the years and knew of his passion and extraordinary vision.

"Arlen served as a forceful advocate for the millions of Americans eagerly awaiting new cures and treatments," Collins continued. "His favorite saying, which we all heard many times over the years, was that NIH was the crown jewel of the federal government. I particularly appreciated Arlen's direct, no-nonsense approach, which he used so effectively to advance biomedical research in ways that some thought impossible. His legendary accomplishments on behalf of biomedical research include: recognizing the potential of stem cells and holding hearing after hearing to bring to the forefront the importance of federal funding to support this research; doubling of the NIH budget between FY 1998-2003; the establishment of an NIH Office of Emergency Medicine; the creation of the Cures Acceleration Network; and securing $10 billion in the Recovery Act to provide an immediate infusion of new research dollars for the NIH in 2009. The distinguished Senator from Pennsylvania also gave of himself in a much more personal way. When he was diagnosed with heart disease and several different types of cancer, the Senator not only refused to give up, he took his battles public and, in the process, inspired countless other patients striving to live full lives in the face of very tough odds. A fighter to the end, Arlen taught us all some valuable lessons about the power of perseverance.

"As NIH Director, I truly miss Arlen's steady hand and vision for our agency, which is the world's largest supporter of biomedical research. Arlen was the epitome of a public servant, and the American people were extremely well served by his wisdom and vigilance. His expectations of the NIH were as high as his confidence in NIH. To pay tribute to the Senator's legacy, we at NIH will work harder than ever to meet those high expectations and to carry out our mission of turning scientific discoveries into better health for all."

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