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Public Health Institute Commemorates Senator Kennedy for His Contributions to the Nation's Health

August 27, 2009

STATEMENT FROM PHI PRESIDENT AND CEO MARY PITTMAN

Senator Kennedy was a constant and dedicated advocate for improving health care and public health services for all Americans. During his 46 years as a U.S. Senator, he left an indelible mark on our country and served as a champion for equity, social justice and human rights. Senator Kennedy was a true leader and an icon in public life.

The priorities that Senator Kennedy pursued through his legislative work, whether in promoting civil rights and social justice, supporting public health and chronic disease prevention, particularly cancer, or increasing access to quality health care, are central to the mission and goals of the Public Health Institute. So much of our own work owes a debt to his leadership and vision over so many years. His legacy will continue to improve the lives of people for decades to come.

John O'Brien, a member of PHI's Board of Directors, had the personal privilege to know and work with Senator Kennedy. John agreed to share some personal thoughts at this time:

"I enjoyed my first extended conversation with Senator Kennedy in the mid-1980s when then-Massachusetts Hospital Association President Steve Hegarty hosted a dinner for five or six of us with Mr. Kennedy. I was nervous to find myself sitting next to a man that I truly saw as larger than life. Over the years, I had many opportunities to be in the Senator's company, and I never ceased to be amazed at how the Senator "got" health care. Early on, I fancied myself as a bit of an expert on health policy issues. That is, until I talked to the Senator. He knew far more about the technical aspects of health policy as well as Medicare and Medicaid than most of us working directly in the field. And he continued to do his homework. He never, ever hesitated to listen and to ask insightful questions of health leaders in Massachusetts and across the nation. We've lost a true champion for the poor and vulnerable and a leader for the health of our nation."

In the coming days, we will continue to reflect on Senator Kennedy's legacy. To honor his memory, we at the Public Health Institute will recommit ourselves to the work we do each day to improve the public's health.