Science News Digest

This is Sarah Long. And this is Doug Johnson with SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a VOA Special English program about recent developments in Science. Today we tell about President Bush's choices for the two top medical positions in the United States government. And we tell about the winner of one of the world's largest prizes.

President Bush has nominated candidates for the nation's two top medical positions. He named Elias Zerhouni (EL-ee-ahs Zur-HOH-nee) to direct the National Institutes of Health. The N-I-H, near Washington, D-C, is the government's medical research agency.

The president chose Richard Carmona (Car-MOAN-ah) to be surgeon general. The surgeon general is the government's chief policy advisor and spokesperson about health issues. The Senate must approve both nominations.

The National Institutes of Health has lacked a director for more than two years. Cancer researcher Harold Varmus left that position at the end of Nineteen-Ninety-Nine.

Doctor Zerhouni currently serves as a top official at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He also is chief of radiology at the university's hospital. Doctor Zerhouni is nationally known for excellence in radiology and research administration.

He is an expert in the science that uses X-rays and other techniques to find and treat diseases. These techniques include magnetic resonance imaging that shows soft body tissue. He also has earned praise for developing a process that takes moving pictures of the heart.

Some critics say Doctor Zerhouni is not especially known for performing research. By comparison, the former N-I-H director, Harold Varmus, won a Nobel Prize for Medicine in Nineteen-Eighty-Nine for research on the genetics of cancer.

Elias Zerhouni is fifty-one years old. He is an American citizen who was born in Algeria. He completed his medical education at the University of Algiers in Nineteen-Seventy-Five. That same year, he and his wife arrived in the United States without family or friends in this country and with little money. He began his training as a doctor at Johns Hopkins.

In the early Nineteen-Eighties, Doctor Zerhouni taught at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk. He returned to Johns Hopkins in Nineteen-Eighty-Five. Ever since, he has held increasingly important responsibilities there. He also has established or helped establish two medical companies. One of these companies made it possible for patients to have magnetic resonance imaging without going to a hospital.

Last year, Doctor Zerhouni helped get private money to start the Institute for Cell Engineering at Johns Hopkins. The institute is working to develop research with special cells called stem cells. Scientists believe this research may result in treatments for a number of diseases.

President Bush says he is sure Doctor Zerhouni will defend Administration positions on important medical research issues. These include stem cells and cloning -- creating genetic copies of living things.

If confirmed by the Senate, Doctor Zerhouni will lead a huge medical research organization. N-I-H occupies more than one-hundred-twenty hectares in Bethesda, Maryland. It has twenty-seven separate institutes or centers. They employ fifteen-thousand people.

The N-I-H budget for Two-Thousand-Three is expected to be more than twenty-seven-thousand-million dollars. This is about one-hundred percent more than in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight.

N-I-H scientists supervise about forty-thousand research projects. They search for causes and treatments for many diseases. However, N-I-H carries out its main research on cancer, heart disease, AIDS and genetic diseases. It also has increased research on chemicals used in possible terrorism attacks.

President Bush has chosen Richard Carmona to be the country's new surgeon general. Doctor Carmona is fifty-two years old. He is an expert in emergency medical care. He operates hospital emergency rooms in Tucson, Arizona. He also serves as a police officer.

Two years ago, the National Association of Police Organizations named him one of nation's best policemen. About ten years ago, Doctor Carmona rescued a person trapped on a dangerous, snowy mountainside. He did this while suspended from a helicopter. This heroic action became the subject of a movie.

If confirmed as surgeon general, Doctor Carmona will direct the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service. More than five-thousand-five-hundred public health workers belong to this organization. Its members work during national emergencies. For example, they worked during the terrorist attacks in New York City and near Washington, D-C, last September.

The surgeon general also prepares reports on public health issues. President Bush said he has asked Doctor Carmona to speak to the nation about alcohol and drug problems. The president also wants him to urge Americans to get more physical exercise.

Richard Carmona grew up in a poor Hispanic family in New York City. He left high school before completing the requirements. At age seventeen, he joined the United States Army. He won Purple Heart medals after being wounded two times during the Vietnam War.

Richard Carmona finished his high school education after returning from the war. Then he attended college and medical school at the University of California in San Francisco.

He continued his medical education at hospitals in San Francisco. He moved to Arizona in Nineteen-Eighty-Five. There he started the first emergency care program in the area. He became director of these trauma services at Tucson Medical Center.

Richard Carmona serves as a doctor for the Pima County police. He helps lead their special crisis force team. He also teaches at the University of Arizona in Tucson. Friends describe him as one of the most energetic people they have known.

Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts heads the Senate committee that will question Doctor Zerhouni and Doctor Carmona. He has praised both men. Senator Kennedy says he looks forward to hearing their positions on health issues.

A British physicist who became a Christian clergyman has been awarded one of the world's largest prizes. The Reverend John Polkinghorne is this year's winner of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion.

The Templeton Prize is worth about one-million dollars. It is named for British businessman John Templeton. Mr. Templeton established the award in Nineteen-Seventy-Two to honor people for their work in religion. The winners for the past four years have been scientists.

The Reverend John Polkinghorne is a mathematical physicist. His writings on the links between science and religion have helped increase public interest in the subject.

John Charlton Polkinghorne was born in England in Nineteen-Thirty. His family was very religious and often attended Church of England services. As a boy, John became interested in mathematics. He completed his education at the University of Cambridge.

He later became a professor of mathematical physics at Cambridge. His mathematical programs for estimating the movement of fast-moving particles are considered his most important scientific findings. His work led to his membership in the Royal Society, Britain's leading scientific organization.

Professor Polkinghorne decided to leave his teaching position to study religion in Nineteen-Seventy-Nine. Three years later, he became a Christian clergyman.

Father Polkinghorne has written more than twenty books. The best known ones include "Belief in God in an Age of Science" and "The Faith of a Physicist." Father Polkinghorne says he believes in both science and religion. He says he sees them as helping each other, not as opponents. He says the idea of a huge explosion creating the universe does not affect his belief in God as creator.

Father Polkinghorne will receive the Templeton prize in a private ceremony in London later this month. He says he will use the prize money to aid the study of science and religion.

This Science in the News program was written by Jerilyn Watson and George Grow. It was produced by Cynthia Kirk. This is Sarah Long. And this is Doug Johnson. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Voice of America Special English

Source: SCIENCE IN THE NEWS - April 9, 2002: Digest
TEXT = http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/archive/2002-04/a-2002-04-08-1-1.cfm?renderforprint=1