By Chris Pirschel, Staff Writer, and Alec Stone, ONS Director of Health Policy

UNC’s Norman Sharpless Named NCI Director

On June 12, 2017, President Trump named Norman Sharpless, MD, as director of National Cancer Institute (NCI). Sharpless, formerly the director of the Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina, is a practicing oncologist and cancer researcher. He will take over as for Doug Lowry, MD, who has been the NCI’s acting director since 2015.

Sharpless’s appointment brings praise from many in the research community, as well as from administrators and clinicians in oncology. His background as both physician and scientist will help him guide the direction of NCI’s future efforts, including appropriating new funds from the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative. As the largest division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NCI has a budget of $5.4 billion for 2017. ONS will continue to work alongside its colleagues in the NCI and NIH to improve care and further scientific discoveries for patients with cancer.

Senators Back to Work on Healthcare Bill

After a week-long Memorial Day recess, the Senate is back to work on the GOP’s healthcare bill—the American Health Care Act (AHCA). After the House passed an initial draft of the AHCA, the bill has come to Republican Senators to be reexamined and retooled. The bill currently faces stiff resistance in the Senate, among Democrats and Republicans. Several GOP Senators have already doubted the possibility of a revised AHCA bill passing anytime this year.

To pass the AHCA, Republicans will need at least 50 votes. However, with issues including coverage, access, Medicare expansion, and pre-existing conditions on the line, there’s little room for error when redrafting the bill. In the coming weeks and months, it will be interesting to see how the Republican Senators shape and change the bill. Garnering support from the American people—and their own party members—will something to watch as the healthcare debate continues. 

National Institutes of Health Director to Remain

Obama-appointed health director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Francis Collins, is set to remain in his post under the Trump administration. Collins is supported by both Republicans and Democrats, several of whom recently urged President Trump to consider keeping him in the role. Collins has extensive scientific experience and understands the needs of the NIH.

Since 2009, Collins has served as health director for the NIH. He previously led the Human Genome Project and is working to carry on important scientific research for new medical discoveries. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues at NIH, the Department of Health and Human Services, the administration, Congress, and the broader research and patient community,” Collins said in a recently released statement. “I am grateful for the president's vote of confidence in my ability to continue to lead this great agency.”

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