Major Initiatives of the Department
of Health and Human Services
during the Bush Years
Louis W. Sullivan
I am convinced that President Bush will be remembered favorably by historians and the American public for his many initiatives in this area. One measure of his success in our issues is the inclusion in this conference of a review of the Department of Health and Human Services. President Bush made health care reform a compelling goal of his administration, recognizing HHS as a first-tier cabinet-level agency and propelling health care issues to the front pages of our nation’s newspapers and periodicals. Under President Bush, the American public began a spirited debate, a complex debate, on health reform, a debate that continues to the present.
A measure of his success was the ability of the president to draw the best and brightest minds into his administration. The moderator of this panel, Dr. Antonia Novello, was the first Hispanic-American and first female surgeon general of the United States. In her role, she set a high standard. I remember her confirmation hearing, where she promised—and she delivered—an apolitical candor. Quoting Cervantes, she said she would never “mince the matter.” This morning she’s given us a taste of her acerbic tongue.
She worked tirelessly for the American people. Others on our panel I remember fondly working with. Ed Derwinski was an outstanding member of the cabinet, serving as the first secretary of the Veterans Administration. And Bill Roper, who was already part of the Reagan administration, continued during the Bush years as a deputy assistant in the White House and as director of the Centers for Disease Control, where his service was outstanding in all of those roles.
There were five major objectives of the department during my tenure at HHS. First was to increase health promotion and disease prevention efforts in our nation.