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Interview with Dr.  William Kissick 
Date: March 19, 1993
Location: University of Pennsylvania 
          Philadelphia, PA 
Interviewer: Stephen P. Strickland

     Strickland: Did You come to the University of Pennsylvania
from some where else?

     Kissick: No, I did all of my education work here, my
undergraduate and medical, internship, then a masters of public
administration then a doctorate in Criminology then as a residency
in public health.  I was appointed as health officer in training at
the New York City Health Department and worked with George Silver.
He is an extraordinary and exhilarating leader.

     Strickland: I talked to George Silver two or three months ago
about the RMP program generally, more specifically about the
situation in Connecticut.  it was a very unusual situation.  You
are certainly right that everyone was distinctive, but there was a
pattern to some of them.  I want to talk a little bit about the
history, but I also want to get your judgement about which elements
of RMP might in fact have relevance for the reform of the health
care system now.

     Kissick: You want it historically or just RMPs role?

     Strickland: Let's have it historically.

     Kissick: The key player in the early days of RMP was -- like
the voice, or its father -- was Wilbur Cohen.  Wilbur Cohen was a
key player in everything of the Great Society.  There were two
parallel activities in '64.  The President's Commission on Heart
Disease, Cancer and Stroke, was appointed, as I recall in March of
1964, and then in April, Johnson created a dozen task Forces to
craft his agenda for the Great Society.  There were people who were
small on the commission, but they also had a lot of real heavy-
weights, some like John Gardner who chaired the education task

     Strickland: This was 1964?  Who was the Assistant Secretary?

     Kissick: Beaufeuillet Jones.

     Strickland: He never actually held the title.

     Kissick: No, he had the title of Special assistant to the
Secretary for Health and Medical Affairs.  Beaufeuillet was the De
Facto Assistant Secretary and his office consisted of three people:
Bo, Bill Stewart, and myself.  The White House task force on health
had eight members and George James chaired it.

     Strickland: He was the health official of New York?

     Kissick: Yes, he, Bill Steward and 1.  Funny compared with
Hillary's cast of 500.  So there were eight members of the task
force and three of us on the staff.  And the link between the task
force and the Commission was through Bo's office because Bo had
been a member of the last two task forces.

     Strickland: A close friend of Florence Mahoney.

     Kissick: Yes, on good terms with Mary Lasker, very good terms
with Senator Hill and a comfortable associate of Mike DeBakey and
all of the Key Lasker people.  And Bo stayed as the de facto
assistant secretary through the work of the commission, through the
elevation and he was there when we presented the report to Johnson.
Then he left to take a foundation presidency.

     Bill Stewart was really the lynch pin.

     Strickland: At that point, was he also the Surgeon General of
the Public Health Service?

     Kissick: No, he was Surgeon General in October of '65, after
the legislation had passed, Bill and Karl Yordie were together in
the Heart Institute and they had been trying to implement the
Regional Medical Programs and Bill was in the process of being
recruited out to the Heart Institute when he was made assistant
deputy.  At that point I was in Phil Lee's office.  Phil was one of
the key players because as the new official assistant secretary he
designed the commission.  And Bill Stewart had elected to write the
report of the President's commission and it was his staffer --
including myself -- that drafted and redrafted the report.

     The president's task force was really the blueprint to
Johnson's heal message.

     Strickland: And the commission and the task force were going
on simultaneously.

     Kissick: Yes.

     Strickland: And you were one of the links?

     Kissick: I was staffing both.  I was staffing Ed Dempsey on
the Commission and Bill Stewart on the Task force.

     Strickland: I see.  Well then, you were the lynch pin.

     Kissick: Yes, but a very inconsequential staffer.  Do you
know Bill?

     Strickland: I have met him in years past but I haven't seen
him in a very long time.  I don't even know where he is.  I'm sure
I could find him.

     Kissick: I think that everything that has been said about
Bill is in a positive light.  He really is incredibly perceptive in
a very modest way.  And a very dedicated public servant.

     Strickland: Do you happen to know where he is?

     Kissick: Yes, I'll give you his phone number, he's in New

     Bill was my mentor for seventeen years, but Bill would sit
down and go over the commission and task force arrangements and see
where things were coming out.  I think Bill would have to be a
principal if you look at its evolution.  He was responsible for
drafting.  He was int the legislative thick of it when the whole
thing was a go.

     Strickland: This is after they got over AMA's opposition to
centers of excellence....

     Kissick: No, I think he was in before that.  After the health
message, he began to work on the legislation and he knew that NIH
had a legislative base and began to articulate it.  I think a lot
of his work by Luther Tariot formed the committee concerned with
who should administer it.  Conceptually it had a lot to do with the
Bureau of State Services as well as the National Institutes of

     Strickland: Right.  Then you had to talk Terry Shannon into
it or at least get him to...

     Kissick: Shannon was ambivalent, he didn't want to do it.

     Strickland: Yes, exactly.

     Kissick: He depended a lot on his constituents.

     Strickland: I haven't talked to Karl.  I know him, but I am
sort of saving him a little bit.

     Kissick: That's a good idea.  But getting back to the...

     Strickland: Well, one of the things we were talking about is
the confluence of the past work.

     Kissick: Yes, I am just trying to think of how to articulate
that succinctly.  There was one knock-down-drag-out fight.  That
was George James said "if we finance this without restructuring,
its going to be a financial disaster."  Red Summers...

     Strickland: Of Princeton...

     Kissick: Professor of Political Science at Princeton, says
"theoretically, all you can get is financing."  History has proved
both of them wrong.

     Strickland: You are absolutely right.

     Editors note: This interview was conducted in the Faculty
Club at the University of Pennsylvania, and at this point the tape
becomes blurred with background noises.