Luther Terry

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Luther Terry
Luther Terry photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg
9th Surgeon General of the United States
In office
President John F. Kennedy
Lyndon B. Johnson
Preceded by Leroy Edgar Burney
Succeeded by William H. Stewart
Personal details
Born(1911-09-15)September 15, 1911
Red Level, Alabama
DiedMarch 29, 1985(1985-03-29) (aged 73)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Luther Terry (September 15, 1911 March 29, 1985) was an American physician and public health official. He was appointed the ninth Surgeon General of the United States from 1961 to 1965, and is best known for his warnings against the dangers and the impact of tobacco use on health.

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The Surgeon General of the United States is the operational head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) and thus the leading spokesperson on matters of public health in the federal government of the United States. The Surgeon General's office and staff are known as the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG) which is housed within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health.

Tobacco agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana

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Early years

Luther Leonidas Terry was born in Red Level, Alabama. His father, James Edward Terry, M.D., a graduate of the University of Alabama School of Medicine, was the "town doctor" for Red Level. Many of Luther Terry's earliest memories were of helping his father in the pharmacy and clinical offices in Red Level and driving his father in the family's Ford Model A to emergency appointments out in the county.

Red Level, Alabama Town in Alabama, United States

Red Level is a town in Covington County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 487.

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The University of Alabama School of Medicine at UAB is a public medical school located in Birmingham, Alabama with branch campuses in Huntsville, Montgomery, and at the University of Alabama College of Community Health Sciences in Tuscaloosa. Residency programs are also located in Selma, Huntsville and Montgomery.

Luther Terry earned a B.S. degree at Birmingham-Southern College in 1931, where he was initiated into the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. He then received an M.D. degree at Tulane University in 1935. After interning at the Hillman Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, and serving a residency in Cleveland Hospitals, Terry moved to Washington University in St. Louis in 1938 for an internship in pathology. The following year, he became an instructor at that institution, and subsequently served as instructor and assistant professor of preventive medicine and public health at the University of Texas at Galveston from 1940 to 1942.

Pi Kappa Alpha North American collegiate fraternity

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In 1942, Terry joined the staff of the Public Health Service Hospital in Baltimore, becoming Chief of Medical Services there the following year. His interest in cardiovascular research led him to accept the position of Chief of General Medicine and Experimental Therapeutics at the National Heart Institute in Bethesda in 1950, at first on a part-time basis while continuing his work at the Baltimore hospital. When the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center opened in 1953, Terry's Heart Institute program was moved to the new facility and he devoted his full-time to the job. He also served as the first Chairman of the Medical Board of the Clinical Center (1953–1955) and was concurrently instructor and then assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1944 to 1961. Terry and his team laid the foundations for what has been called "the golden era of cardiovascular clinical investigation".

Research formal work undertaken systematically to increase the stock of knowledge

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National Institutes of Health Medical research organization in the United States

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Surgeon General

In 1958, Terry became the Assistant Director of the National Heart Institute. He came to public prominence when President John F. Kennedy selected him as Surgeon General of the Public Health Service, effective March 2, 1961.

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Although there had always been an awareness of the negative health effects of smoking, it was not until the 1950s that evidence began to be published suggesting that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer and other diseases. At the end of the decade, the Royal College of Physicians in the United Kingdom appointed a committee to investigate the relationship between smoking and health. The committee's report, issued on March 7, 1962, clearly indicated cigarette smoking as a cause of lung cancer and bronchitis and argued that it probably contributed to cardiovascular disease as well.

Lung cancer cancer in the lung

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Royal College of Physicians professional body of doctors of general medicine and its subspecialties in the UK

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United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and sometimes referred to as Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Cover page of the report on smoking and health Smokingandhealthcover.jpg
Cover page of the report on smoking and health

Shortly after the release of this report, Terry established the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health, which he chaired, to produce a similar report for the United States. Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States , released on January 11, 1964, concluded that lung cancer and chronic bronchitis are causally related to cigarette smoking. The report also noted out that there was suggestive evidence, if not definite proof, for a causative role of smoking in other illnesses such as emphysema, cardiovascular disease, and various types of cancer. The committee concluded that cigarette smoking was a health hazard of sufficient importance to warrant appropriate remedial action.

In June 1964, the Federal Trade Commission voted by a margin of 3–1 to require that cigarette manufacturers "clearly and prominently" place a warning on packages of cigarettes effective January 1, 1965, stating that smoking was dangerous to health, in line with the warning issued by the Surgeon General's special committee. The same warning would be required in all cigarette advertising effective July 1, 1965. [1]

The landmark Surgeon General's report on smoking and health stimulated a greatly increased concern about tobacco on the part of the American public and government policymakers and led to a broad-based anti-smoking campaign. It also motivated the tobacco industry to intensify its efforts to question the scientific evidence linking smoking and disease. The report was also responsible for the passage of the Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965, which, among other things, mandated Surgeon General's health warnings on cigarette packages.

Cigarette smoking of nicotine was defined as not an addiction in the Surgeon General's first report on smoking (published by a committee of doctors who were largely smokers themselves). [2]

Later years

Luther Terry himself continued to play a leading role in the campaign against smoking after leaving the post of Surgeon General, which he occupied through October 1, 1965. He chaired the National Interagency Council on Smoking and Health, a coalition of government agencies and nongovernment organizations, from 1967 to 1969, and served as a consultant to groups such as the American Cancer Society. Terry helped to obtain a ban on cigarette advertisements on radio and television in 1971. Late in his life he led the effort to eliminate smoking from the workplace.

When Terry retired from government service in 1965, he became Vice President for Medical Affairs, as well as Professor of Medicine and Community Medicine, at the University of Pennsylvania. Terry was responsible for managing the University's health sciences schools, comprising some 40 percent of the University's budget, until he gave up the position of Vice President in 1971. He retained his professorial appointment until 1975, when he became Adjunct Professor, and then in 1981 Emeritus Professor. From 1970 to 1983, he also served as President of University Associates, a nonprofit consulting firm based in Washington, D.C.

Terry's last years were spent as Corporate Vice President for Medical Affairs for ARA Services of Philadelphia (1980–1983) and then as a consultant. He died of heart failure, aged 73, on March 29, 1985, in Philadelphia.

A collection of his papers are held at the National Library of Medicine in Bethesda, Maryland. [3]

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  1. Eileen Shanahan (25 June 1964). "U.S. To Require Health Warning For Cigarettes". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 2008-01-17.
  2. Joel Spitzer. The Surgeon General says ... Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  3. "Luther L. Terry Papers 1957–1995 (bulk 1965–1983)". National Library of Medicine.