President Clinton's choice for U.S. surgeon general evoked criticism late last week from conservatives, who branded him another version of Joycelyn Elders, M.D.
Nominee Henry Foster Jr., M.D., the former acting president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., is subject to confirmation by the GOP-controlled Senate.
Foster, 61, is an obstetrician-gynecologist who, like Elders, has ties to Clinton's home state of Arkansas. He earned his medical degree from the University of Arkansas in 1958.
As a dean at Meharry, a largely black school, Foster initiated programs to reduce teen-age pregnancy.
Clinton called Foster a "top-flight medical professional" and directed him to head a national campaign to combat teen-age pregnancy-a problem the president called in his State of the Union address the nation's most critical social issue.
After 21 years at Meharry, Foster took a sabbatical in July 1994 to assume a fellowship at the Washington-based Association of Academic Health Centers.
American Medical Association Executive Vice President James Todd, M.D., said he supported Foster's nomination.
Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum (R-Kan.), who chairs the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, which will review the nomination, had no comment.
But some conservative members of Congress were quick to attack the choice because the programs Foster started distributed contraceptives and offered abortion counseling to teen-agers.
"The president is making another mistake, and it's my hope that the Senate will not," said Gary Bauer, president of Family Research Council, a conservative research and advocacy group. "Dr. Foster appears to be Elders-lite."
Elders resigned last December at Clinton's request. The president was prompted by her controversial remarks on contraception, abortion and other issues, including her suggestion at a United Nations conference on AIDS that teaching masturbation in schools be considered as a way to prevent AIDS.
Since Elders left office, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Philip Lee, M.D., has been acting surgeon general (Dec. 19/26, 1994, p. 6).