Surgeon-General Nominee Is Noted Veteran of Fight Against Teenage Pregnancy

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President Clinton nominated a new surgeon general last week who shares one of his predecessor's passions: reducing teenage pregnancy.

Dr. Henry Foster Jr., a respected obstetrician and former director of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, is considered an expert on the prevention of teenage pregnancy.

If confirmed, he would succeed Dr. Joycelyn Elders, who often spoke of the need to "halt the epidemic of babies having babies." Dr. Elders was dismissed in December following a statement she made that masturbation was "something that perhaps should be taught in schools." (See Education Week, Jan. 11, 1995.)

President Clinton's choice to replace her ran the successful "I Have a Future" program at Meharry College. The program uses self-esteem building, job-skills training, and abstinence education to help delay sexual activity among adolescents.

Leading the Charge

At a White House ceremony late last week, Mr. Clinton praised Dr. Foster for his lifelong "dedication to the young, poor, and underserved."

Mr. Clinton said he wants his nominee, once he is confirmed, to use his position as the nation's most prominent doctor "to help America attack the epidemic of teen pregnancies."

"I am convinced Dr. Foster is the person to galvanize [education and community leaders] and lead this charge," Mr. Clinton said.

The President called for a national campaign to fight teenage pregnancy in his welfare-reform proposal last year and again in his State of the Union Message last month. He so far has provided few details on his plan.

Accepting the nomination, Dr. Foster said he was committed to putting in the work necessary to attack the adolescent-childbearing problem.

"As your surgeon general, this will be among my highest priorities," he said.

Dr. Foster, who currently is a health-policy fellow at the Academic Health Centers in Washington, has been endorsed by the American Medical Association and Dr. Louis Sullivan, the Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George Bush.

A Senate confirmation-hearing date has not been set.

Vol. 14, Issue 20

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