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Bush Announces Choices for Top US Medical Positions

President Bush is filling the nation's two top medical positions. One is responsible for public health, while the other directs the government's network of research laboratories.

Richard Carmona is the president's choice for surgeon general. Elias Zerhouni is his pick to lead the National Institutes of Health. "These are distinguished physicians that have worked tirelessly to save lives and to improve lives," said Mr. Bush.

He made the announcement at a White House ceremony. Standing between his two nominees, he spoke of the importance of both public health, and medical research.

"We are going to make, and are making, an unprecedented commitment to medical research," said Mr. Bush. "And we are improving our public health system to make sure that we can respond quickly to any biological threat that our country may face. And we are putting sound health care policies in place and, as importantly, putting a quality team in place."

It is an increasingly diverse team. Elias Zerhouni was born and raised in Algeria. The director-designate of the National Institutes of Health is a radiologist by training and currently serves as a top administrator at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "It is my distinct honor to be considered for the directorship of the National Institutes of Health," he said. "It is the agency that is the driving force behind our nation's pre-eminence in the biomedical sciences."

If the head of the NIH is the nation's top researcher, then the surgeon general is America's family doctor. His job is to advise the president and the country on health care issues: from physical fitness to ensuring the United States is ready to respond to a major health care emergency, such as a biological attack.

Richard Carmona brings a unique resume to the job. As he accepted the nomination in both English and Spanish, there was a touch of disbelief mixed with excitement in his voice. "I just got to say that you have enabled me to appreciate the American dream," he said. "As a high-school dropout, a poor Hispanic kid to where I am today is just nothing that you could even dream about."

Dr. Carmona is both a highly skilled emergency physician and a trained police officer. He has the resume of a Hollywood action hero, including a 1992 incident in which he dangled on a lifeline from a helicopter to rescue an accident victim trapped on a cliff.

Neither nominee is expected to face tough opposition on Capitol Hill. Dr. Zerhouni's support for the president's position on stem cell research and cloning could create some problems. But on the day the nominations were announced, he won high praise from Democrat Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, the chairman of the Senate Health Committee.