APS News

Frist, Lieberman, Varmus Receive Y2K Public Service Awards

(Left to right) Awardees Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Dr. Harold Varmus, and Senator Bill Frist (R-TN). Photo credit: Copyright 2000 Robert Visser
(Left to right) Awardees Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Dr. Harold Varmus, and Senator Bill Frist (R-TN). Photo credit: Copyright 2000 Robert Visser
On March 29, Senator Bill Frist (R-TN), Senator Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Harold Varmus, former director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were awarded the first annual Public Service Awards on Capitol Hill, following a reception in their honor. The awards are jointly sponsored by the APS, the American Astronomical Society (AAS), and the American Mathematical Society (AMS), which collectively represent more than 100,000 scientists and mathematicians.

All three awardees have been instrumental in highlighting the interdependence of scientific disciplines and the need for a more balanced federal portfolio. Senators Frist and Lieberman were honored for their advocacy on behalf of increased federal investments in science and engineering research. They were among the original co-sponsors of the Federal Research Investment Act (S.296), which the Senate passed last year. The bill is currently awaiting House action. It would authorize doubling federal support of civilian science over the next decade. Now president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, Varmus has been an outspoken promoter of all areas of science and oversaw an extraordinary five-year growth in the NIH budget during his term as director.

"At a time when public attention has been sharply focused on progress in medicine and information technology, these leaders have repeatedly stressed the importance of the basic sciences that have propelled the extraordinary advances in health care and economic prosperity," said APS Past President Jerome I. Friedman, who presented the award to Lieberman.

Frist graduated from Princeton University in 1974, specializing in health care policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School in 1978 and spent several years in surgical training at Massachusetts General Hospital and Stanford University Medical Center. A former professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Frist is board-certified in both general and heart surgery. Elected to the Senate in 1994, he quickly established himself as an advocate of science, passing legislation to create the "Next Generation Internet" as well as the National Investment Act. "Research and development represent the cornerstone of our modernizing economy," he said in February 1999 in response to a strong presidential budget request for scientific R&D.

Now in his second term in the Senate, Lieberman has earned a national reputation as a thoughtful, effective legislator, winning kudos and endorsements from publications as diverse as the New York Times, the New Republic and the New York Post. Born in Stamford, CT, he received his bachelor's degree from Yale College in 1964, earning a law degree there three years later. He was elected to the Connecticut State Senate in 1970, serving 10 years. From 1982 to 1988 he served as Connecticut's attorney general and went on to win election to the U.S. Senate in an upset victory by just 10,000 votes. Re-elected six years later, he made history by winning the biggest landslide victory ever in a Connecticut race for a senate seat.

An Amherst undergraduate, Varmus earned a master's degree from Harvard University and his medical degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, interning at New York's Presbyterian Hospital. After two years as a clinical associate at the National Institute of Arthritis and Metabolic Diseases in Bethesda, MD, he spent much of his career at the University of California, San Francisco, beginning as a postdoctoral fellow in 1979. He was a co-recipient of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with J. Michael Bishop.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette