News from the National Academy of Sciences

Jan. 28, 2014


John E. Porter to Receive Public Welfare Medal – Academy's Most Prestigious Award

WASHINGTON — In recognition of decades of advocacy on behalf of scientific and medical research, the National Academy of Sciences is presenting its 2014 Public Welfare Medal to John E. Porter, former member of Congress, partner in the law firm Hogan Lovells, and chair of Research!America.  Established in 1914, the medal is the Academy's most prestigious award and is presented annually to honor extraordinary use of science for the public good.

"John Porter is a leading champion of American science and medicine," said Susan Wessler, home secretary of the National Academy of Sciences and chair of the selection committee for the award.  "His ability to garner support for research has enabled countless advances that otherwise might not have been possible."

First elected to Congress in 1980, Porter served Illinois' 10th district in the U.S. House of Representatives for 21 years.  As a member and then chair of the House Appropriations subcommittee, he played a key role in overseeing budget appropriations for all federal health and education agencies.  In 1995, Porter launched a campaign that led to the largest funding increase in NIH history, doubling the agency's budget over five years despite efforts in Congress at the time to cut government spending.

"[Porter] immersed himself in the detailed working of our agency while not losing sight of the big picture -- namely the scientific mission to make discoveries and to apply our science to improvements in human health," wrote Harold Varmus, director of the NIH from 1993 to 1999 and current director of the National Cancer Institute, in a letter supporting Porter's nomination for the award.

As a partner at Hogan Lovells, Porter specializes in health legislation and political law compliance.  He also serves as chair of Research!America, a nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance dedicated to making health research a higher national priority, and as vice chair of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health.

"John Porter's amazing ability to excite policymakers and the public about the great promise of science and medicine is directly responsible for the support of numerous research projects that are advancing biomedical science and enabling treatment of devastating illnesses," said National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone.  "We are pleased that he will accept our highest award."

In recognition of Porter's leadership in furthering biomedical research, the congressionally mandated John Edward Porter Neuroscience Research Center was recently completed on the NIH campus and will bring together scientists from seven of NIH's institutes.

Among Porter's many awards is the 2000 Mary Wood Lasker Award for Public Service "for wise and perceptive leadership on behalf of medical research."  He has received public service awards from many scientific and medical organizations, including the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the American Society for Cell Biology, the American Society for Microbiology, the Association of American Medical Colleges, the Association of Academic Health Centers, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the Society of Neuroscience, and the American Medical Association.

Porter has long been dedicated to the defense of human rights and was founder and co-chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a voluntary association of members of Congress who work to identify, monitor, and end human rights violations worldwide.

Porter was elected to the Institute of Medicine in 2007 and has served on many study committees of the IOM and National Research Council.  He is also a member of the boards of the PBS Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Bretton Woods Committee.  Previously, he was chairman of PBS and served on the boards of RAND Corp., the American Heart Association, the Brookings Institution, and the Population Resource Center.

The Public Welfare Medal will be presented to Porter on April 27 during the Academy's 151st annual meeting.  More information, including a list of past recipients, is available at

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and -- with the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council -- provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

Molly Galvin, Senior Media Relations Officer
Office of News and Public Information
202-334-2138; e-mail
Twitter: @NAS_news and @theNASciences
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