For its second annual Kansas University Medical Center gala, the hospital honored former U.S. Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker for her contributions to Kansas health care.
Nearly 700 people attended the black-tie affair at the Hyatt Regency Crown Center in Kansas City, Mo. Organizers hoped the dinner would raise more than $100,000 for research at the center.
"We're honoring Sen. Kassebaum for all she's done for us, and we've been trying to get her for a long time to accept recognition," said Donald F. Hagen, executive vice chancellor of the KU Med Center in Kansas City, Kan. "She'll receive the Health, Healing and Hope Award. We like to do it around a party."
During her political career, Kassebaum Baker introduced or co-sponsored a number of health-related measures, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountabilty Act, which assisted millions of Americans in getting health insurance; the Orphan Drug Act of 1983, increasing the availability of drugs for rare diseases; the Ryan White CARE Act Reauthorization for programs to provide health care for individuals suffering from HIV; the Traumatic Brain Injury Act of 1996; and the Food and Drug Administration Performance and Accountability Act.
She is currently the chairwoman of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health.
Kassebaum Baker, who served in the U.S. Senate from 1978 to 1997, accepted the award after dinner. She attended the gala with her husband, former Tennessee Sen. Howard Baker.
Kansas City television anchorman Larry Moore served as the master of ceremonies, introducing Gov. Bill Graves, U.S. Rep. Dennis Moore and Sen. Dick Bond, R-Overland Park.
"When Dr. Hagen approached me about being here tonight, he told me about all the new things happening (at KU Med)," Larry Moore said. "This spring, the doors of the Theo and Alfred M. Landon Center on Aging will open."
Hagen said Kassebaum Baker helped secure federal funding for the geriatric research center named for her parents.
Former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop was the last recipient of the Health, Healing and Hope Award.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway greeted the crowd before dinner was served.
"We are building a foundation for a community of scientists in the Kansas City area," he said. "If you look at the not-too-distant future, you see changes in the population. KU Med Center, as well as other hospitals around the area and the nation, are already beginning to feel the impact of the growing number of senior citizens."
Hemenway also offered an anecdote about KU honoring Alf Landon from one of his predecessor's terms.
"Senator Baker, and then Chancellor Budig took him to the field during a home football game," Hemenway said. "They say the chancellor did most of the talking. The then 100-year-old man later complained, 'you'd think they'd let an old man say something.'"