Dr. Satcher Has Seen Controversy Before

Article excerpt

David Satcher had his first brush with disease at age 2, when he nearly died of whooping cough. But it was a chance meeting as a young doctor that foretold his role as a guardian of public health.

Walking door-to-door in Watts, a poor neighborhood of Los Angeles, Satcher asked one man what he needed most in medical care. "Well, Dr. Satcher, we needs everything," the man replied.

President Bill Clinton's choice for surgeon general also worked with the sick in the slums of Cleveland and immigrants in New York before being appointed director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1993. The son of a foundry worker, Satcher was raised in a large family on a farm outside Anniston, Ala. "Even when he rode the bus to school, he would read the whole time while the other kids played and talked," a sister, Lottie Washington, said. A 1963 graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Satcher was the first black student to earn a medical and doctoral degree simultaneously at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland in 1970. Satcher, 56, started his medical career in Los Angeles at the Martin Luther King Jr. Medical Center, where he developed the family medicine department and directed the sickle-cell program. He returned to Atlanta as chairman of the community medicine department at Morehouse School of Medicine and spent more than a decade as president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville. Satcher took over the CDC at a troubled time. The agency had been ordered to cut hundreds of jobs and was under investigation for hiring violations after minorities alleged job discrimination. …