HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Philip Lee, M.D., will become the nation's acting surgeon general after Joycelyn Elders, M.D., leaves office at the end of the year, an HHS spokesman said last week.
Dr. Lee has been assistant secretary for health since 1993. Before that, he chaired the Physician Payment Review Commission, which advises Congress on Medicare Part B issues.
The White House has not begun its search for Dr. Elders' replacement and probably won't for several months, the spokesman said.
Dr. Elders was asked to resign by President Clinton Dec. 9 after she suggested that masturbation be taught in schools as a way of preventing AIDS. She made the statement during a speech at a United Nations Conference on AIDS Dec. 1.
Mr. Clinton said in a written statement that Dr. Elders' "public statements reflecting differences with administration policy*.*.*.*have made it necessary for her to tender her resignation."
Since her appointment, Dr. Elders has been a lightning rod for criticism by congressional conservatives. The remarks at the U.N. conference followed other controversial statements on abortion, the legalization of drugs and sex education for schoolchildren.