Beacon of Hope: Founding Years
Research as the Means to Health Security
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Founding Years 1944-1953
Growth Years 1953-1969
Years of Change and Renewal 1969-1993
About the Author

If the failure to undertake defense research in the summer of 1950 demonstrated the organic limits of intramural research, Truman’s visit to lay the cornerstone the following June was a reminder of its political limits. Truman had never forgiven the American Medical Association for thwarting his national health insurance program, and in the spring of 1951 he embarked on several whistle-stop tours promoting a compromise version, which would entitle Social Security recipients to hospital care financed by payroll deductions.38 In dedicating the half-finished Clinical Center building on June 22, Truman had higher praises for public health work than for clinical research. “Medical care,” he insisted, “is for the people and not just for the doctors—and the rich.” Warning that the 75 million Americans then without health insurance would soon become a "medically indigent class,”he challenged the scientific community to “translate the new knowledge gained by research into better care for more people.” Truman’s real target was the first Hoover Commission report, the new conventional wisdom among NIH’s administrators and congressional bill writers, which held that “research to prevent disease" was a better investment for federal dollars than “providing unlimited hospitalization to treat it.”39 In Truman' s view, it was only a matter of time before the people or their representatives would claim a return on their research investment.

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