Reagan Names Country Doctor to Succeed Heckler in Cabinet : Former Governor of Indiana Picked as Health Secretary
President Reagan today named former Indiana Gov. Otis R. Bowen, a country doctor, to be secretary of health and human services, replacing Margaret M. Heckler.
Reagan made the announcement without fanfare during a picture-taking session in the Oval Office with Bowen, 67, a conservative Republican, by his side.
Last month Reagan announced the appointment of Heckler to be U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
Bowen served as governor of Indiana for two terms, from 1973 to 1981, and has spent most of his life as a small-town doctor.
“Doc Bowen is a man with extremely high credentials and respect in his home state of Indiana and has the country doctor’s human touch,” Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) said in a statement.
‘The Type You’d Trust’
Said a Lugar aide: “He’s a country doctor, a Norman Rockwell character, the type of guy you’d trust.”
Bowen, who kept a family practice in Bremen, Ind., during the 14 years he served in the state Legislature, including four terms as House Speaker, now serves as a clinical professor of family medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine.
He would be the first physician to head the sprawling federal department that spends a third of the annual budget.
The President said he chose Bowen, who has advised Republican and Democratic presidents alike, “because of all of the qualifications he has in excess"--including the fact that he had served as one of Indiana’s most popular governors and as a doctor.
Bowen told an American Medical Assn. convention in 1981 that he gave the drug dimethyl sulfoxide, DMSO, to his wife, who was dying of cancer, to relieve her pain. The drug had not been approved for cancer victims by the Food and Drug Administration. He said it was recommended to him by a veterinarian friend.
Asked in the Oval Office if he thought it would hurt his confirmation by the Senate, Bowen told reporters, “No, because I’ve done nothing illegal.”
Bowen has also served as adviser to former Presidents Gerald R. Ford and Jimmy Carter. Ford called on him to help reduce the mountains of federal paper work, and Carter obtained his advice in preparing his energy program.
Bowen was appointed chairman by Reagan of an advisory council on Social Security, which made recommendations on financing Medicare and improving its responsiveness.
Heckler, who has been accused of being a poor administrator, was forced to resign under pressure from White House aides, particularly Chief of Staff Donald T. Regan. Speakes described her diplomatic appointment at the time as a “promotion.”
Heckler will remain HHS secretary until she is confirmed in her new post, a process that may take until January.