August 7, 2011

Statement on the Death of Former Senator Mark O. Hatfield

I am profoundly saddened by the death of former Senator Mark O. Hatfield, whose visionary support of medical research made possible the NIH Clinical Research Center that now bears his name. Our thoughts are with Mark’s wife Antoinette, his children, his extended family, and the many others who will miss the presence of this great statesman and even greater man.

Throughout his lifetime of public service, Mark devoted himself to improving the human condition, often reminding his legislative colleagues of “the desperate human needs in our midst.” And he matched those words with action during his 30 years in the U.S. Senate. As chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, he served as a strong and principled advocate for the needs of those who are less fortunate. He also consistently defended the importance of NIH-funded research and its importance to our society.

I first met Senator Hatfield in 1994, when he came to NIH for a visit and I had a chance to make a presentation to him about the promise of the Human Genome Project. He immediately grasped the significance of this effort both for the future of medicine and for society. That began a wonderful conversation about science, policy, and faith that has extended over all of these years.

Mark was a true friend to me, to the research community, and to the millions of Americans who have benefitted from his forward-looking leadership. We at NIH will honor his legacy through our continued dedication to the research that he helped make possible.

Finally, while the Senator is no longer with us, we can all take heart from his remarks at the Sept. 22, 2004 dedication of the Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Research Center: “There is no medicine like hope. … My prayer today is that God grant you an abundance of patience, perseverance, and cures.”

Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D.
Director, National Institutes of Health