University honors U.S. Health Secretary Shalala

The University conferred an honorary doctorate on U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Resources Donna E. Shalala,

whom it cited for her “contributions and attainments in matters of equality and social welfare and the advancement of the status of women, minorities, and children.” Shalala is America’s longest-serving Secretary of Health.

In her remarks after being formally hooded, the U.S. Cabinet official linked education, health, and peace.

“It was,” she claimed, “precisely the flow of information, the sharing of knowledge, and the open trading of ideas that started the thaw in the Cold War.” This sharing of knowledge is not just important to global peace, she continued; it is just as important to global health. Pointing as an example to work being done at the University’s Institute of Evolution on genetic damage in Chernobyl victims (see Focus, Spring 96), the Health Secretary said that education and knowledge-sharing “help ensure a world where a medical discovery made by any one nation—and research done by any one individual—will benefit us all.”

Calling for both public and private investment in research and education (“My wish for all of you is to continue to further and enrich this tradition”), she earlier told the audience in the Hecht Museum’s recently dedicated auditorium “that the United States just made the largest investment in our history to the National Institutes of Health. This will steady the stream of research money. This commitment will [also] provide more funding for Israeli scientists--and their counterparts around the globe—who compete for grants from the NIH.” She invited Israeli scientists to apply.

Though education may be more important to the well-being of a nation, she said, it also increased the individual’s chances of being in good health. “We know that educated individuals tend be healthier,” Shalala stated. “They know how to make wiser health choices and to live healthier lifestyles. In the United States, over the past two decades, we’ve seen this inverse relationship between education and health—less schooling leads to greater mortality rates.”

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