March 21, 2017 - Issue: Vol. 163, No. 49 — Daily Edition115th Congress (2017 - 2018) - 1st Session
TRIBUTE TO DR. HARRY CHEN; Congressional Record Vol. 163, No. 49
(Senate - March 21, 2017)
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[Pages S1885-S1886] From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov] TRIBUTE TO DR. HARRY CHEN Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, for over a decade, Vermont has been named one of the healthiest States in the Nation. For those who know the tireless dedication of Vermont's Commissioner of Health, Dr. Harry Chen, this fact is not surprising. Dr. Chen recently made the difficult decision to not seek reappointment. He leaves behind a legacy which future leaders will undoubtedly follow. Dr. Chen has long graced Vermont as a top leader in healthcare. Before his appointment as health commissioner in 2011, Dr. Chen served in the Vermont House of Representatives from 2004 to 2008 and in his last term was the vice chair of the Health Care Committee. In 2008, he was honored with the Physician Award for Community Service by the Vermont State Medical Society. Prior to his election to the State legislature, Dr. Chen worked for more than 20 years as an emergency room physician and medical director at the Rutland Regional Medical Center. Dr. Chen also served on the clinical faculty at the University of Vermont's College of Medicine and as vice chair of the University of Vermont's board of trustees. He obtained his medical degree and completed his residency at the University of Oregon's school of medicine as chief resident. Dr. Chen's work to improve public health awareness and education has long made Vermont a nationwide leader in healthcare. As Vermont's Commissioner of Health since 2011 and briefly as the interim Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2014 to 2015, Dr. Chen led the charge to expand public health education and resources across the State. Dr. Chen was especially instrumental in the fight against opioid and substance abuse. I was proud when he testified at the field hearing I held on the issue while ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in 2014. In the years after, he worked to strengthen State resources for treatment and education programs. He has worked to improve the State's prescription drug monitoring system in order to curb harmful opioid prescribing and misuse. Dr. Chen also led efforts to reduce tobacco, marijuana, and alcohol use among youth. In 2013, he and I worked to secure a $10 million grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, SAMHSA, to expand substance abuse efforts in Vermont among young adults at risk of developing habits in alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, and illicit drug use. Since his efforts, the conversation regarding youth substance abuse, especially on marijuana, has become a major public health discussion in the Vermont Statehouse and beyond. He also worked to expand nutrition education in schools and to increase awareness surrounding the importance of vaccines. For instance, 2 years ago, after the outbreak of Ebola, Dr. Chen worked with Vermont's top health facilities to strengthen defenses against the disease, while educating patients on the importance of disease prevention. He also led efforts to increase vaccinations for children in efforts to prevent the spread of disease at school. Dr. Chen's dedication to public health promotion did not stop at the State level. In 2009, Dr. Chen testified before the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Vermont's experience with healthcare reform and the creation of Vermont Health Connect. In 2014, he became chair of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Food Safety and Modernization Act Surveillance Working Group where he continues to strengthen foodborne illness surveillance systems across the country. He has also long served on the board of the CDC's Office of Infectious Disease, and he currently chairs the Prevention Committee of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Vermont's national role in promoting the health and well-being of patients has made strides under the leadership of Dr. Chen. Vermonters are sorry to [[Page S1886]] see him go, but I know we can expect many more years of outstanding leadership from him. In fact, he and his wife have just been accepted to the Peace Corps, where they look forward to training physicians in Africa. I wish them both the very best in this exciting work, and I once again thank Dr. Chen for his incredible contributions to our State and beyond. ____________________