TRIBUTE TO DR. HARRY CHEN
(Senate - March 21, 2017)

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[Congressional Record Volume 163, Number 49 (Tuesday, March 21, 2017)]
[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.

                          ____________________