The Aug. 25 death of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D, Mass.) from brain cancer prompted an outpouring of sympathy from health care organizations, which noted how he devoted much of his storied career to fighting tirelessly for their causes. "During his many years in public service, Sen. Kennedy was a champion for America's patients -- working until the end to make improvements on their behalf," American Medical Association President J. James Rohack, MD, said in a statement. "For example, Sen. Kennedy was a leading voice in efforts to expand access to health care for children and to secure fair health coverage for the mentally ill." In March, the AMA awarded the nine-term senator the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service. Dr. Rohack noted that Kennedy, after undergoing brain surgery last year, made an unexpected return to the Senate chamber on July 9, 2008, to cast the deciding vote that led to the passage of legislation preventing a Medicare physician pay cut. The American Public Health Assn. hailed Kennedy as one of the group's greatest supporters, noting that he considered health system reform the cause of his life. "Without his leadership and guidance, it is doubtful that we would finally be on the brink of enacting health reform after decades of attempts." The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee that Kennedy chaired passed a national reform measure in July that he supported, but they did so without his direct leadership. The ailing senator tapped Sen. Chris Dodd (D, Conn.) to take over the day-to-day operation of the committee for the historic month-long markup preceding the passage, though Kennedy maintained regular contact with panel members during the process. In an Aug. 26 call with reporters, Dodd said no decisions had been made about HELP Committee leadership, staffing or health reform strategy in light of Kennedy's death. Until a special election can be held to fill the vacant seat, the Democratic caucus will be left with 59 members, one short of the 60 votes usually needed to move contentious Senate legislation to the final approval stage. But some organizations that praised Kennedy for his long-time commitment to health system reform said his legacy might prove effective in pushing Congress over the finish line. "As Congress seems poised to act this fall, Sen. Kennedy will no doubt be watching with hope that this goal will be achieved," said Barry Rand, AARP's CEO. "While his voice on this issue, and so many others, will be absent, his passion and wisdom must carry on." The full and original article can be found here: