By Sandra Basu
Bethesda MD – Walter Reed National Military Medical Center honored the late Rep. John P. Murtha last month by renaming its comprehensive cancer center in memory of the Pennsylvania congressman.
At an event attended by Murtha’s family, DoD leaders and many members of Congress, it was announced that the new DoD center of excellence for cancer care would be called the John P. Murtha Cancer Center.
The cancer center, which employs more than 330 staffers is a 74,000-square-foot facility with an additional 43,312 square feet of off-campus research space.
“The John C. Murtha Cancer Center is an investment in the future of military medicine,” said Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Jonathan Woodson, MD. “It will continue to pay dividends to Americans and people who fight our country’s wars far into the future for many decades to come.”
The event also was a tribute to the late congressman, who had served in the Marine Corps and went on to champion military causes in Congress.
Murtha, who died in 2010, was credited with helping to create the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) in 1992. The program was created in response by lobbying by consumer groups to do more to address breast cancer, including complaints by military spouses that mammograms were not being offered at military hospitals.
As chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Murtha responded by steering $25 million into the Pentagon budget for mammograms. He would go on to direct more than $2.5 billion for the DoD peer-reviewed breast cancer research program (BCRP), which is part of the CDMRP portfolio. The program has funded thousands of breast cancer-related research proposals from around the country.
Joyce Murtha, his widow, noted how proud he would have been to have his name on the center. She said that “cancer research was one way he felt he could make a lasting impact.”
House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who spoke on behalf of the congressional delegation attending the event, remarked on Murtha’s skills as a lawmaker. She said that to watch him legislate, was to watch “a master at work.”
“I continue to hold that view,” she said. “He was a champion of Johnstown and his beloved state of Pennsylvania, a giant in the Congress, a hero on the battlefield, a strong voice for progress.”