• U.S.

The Administration: Exit Egeberg

2 minute read

The Nixon Administration’s epidemic of exits has apparently infected the nation’s chief health officer, Dr. Roger O. Egeberg, Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs. Only 17 months ago Egeberg was widely viewed as a man who could heal the wounds left by the White House’s rejection of Dr. John Knowles, the controversial Bostonian who was originally slated to get the job. But last week all signs indicated that Egeberg will be ousted from his key post in the Health, Education and Welfare Department some time around the first of the year.

A tall, affable Democrat, Egeberg has been an Administration outsider from the start. In appearances before congressional committees, he has often damned Nixon health programs with less than faint praise. Six months ago, he publicly questioned whether the White House knew what was going on in the health field.

For their part, Administration insiders have questioned whether Egeberg knows what is going on in HEW. They complain that it took him eleven months to fill three of the department’s five top health posts with nominees acceptable to the Administration. Critics charge that he has been too immersed in petty bickering with other HEW officials to do his own job. Egeberg claims to have the complete confidence of HEW Secretary Elliot Richardson. But Richardson has yet to make a public statement supporting Egeberg.

Two weeks ago, an aide to Vice President Agnew sounded out one possible successor, Dr. Neil Solomon, a 38-year-old Democrat who heads Maryland’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Solomon not only turned down the job, but he went out of his way to praise Egeberg. “Dr. Egeberg,” he said, “is well qualified to lead the nation in this field if the Administration will only give him adequate support.” Others mentioned for the post are Dr. Vernon Wilson, director of HEW’s Health Services and Mental Health Administration, and Dr. Charles Edwards, head of the Food and Drug Administration.

More likely candidates are Dr. Leonard Cronkhite Jr., director of the Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, and Dr. Thomas Points, a Deputy Assistant Secretary at HEW. Both men rank high on previously compiled lists of possible assistant secretaries. Equally important to an Administration that is visibly tired of internal dissension, both are Republicans.

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