During his tenure in Congress, John P. Murtha fought to improve health care for military personnel and their families.
On Monday his efforts will be immortalized with the naming of the John P. Murtha Cancer Center at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
"As this went forward certain levels wanted to really give homage to one individual who really, over 20 years, made this possible," Col. Craig Shriver, cancer center director, said during a conference call with reporters. "Over the years congressman John Murtha has been very supportive and proactive in addressing the issue of cancer care, screening and prevention."
"In honor of that we determined the cancer center would be named the John P. Murtha Cancer Center," he added.
The center will be located at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which is the result of a merger between the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Naval Medical Center at the National Naval Medical Center location. It is the only approved Department of Defense Center of Excellence for Cancer Care.
Locally, Murtha, who died in 2010, was instrumental in the development and funding of the Windber Research Institute, Joyce Murtha Breast Care Center and the John P. Murtha Regional Cancer Center in Johnstown.
Shriver said a study that was published a few years ago showed a high incidence of breast and prostate cancer in the military. Shriver said screening rates for active duty members and their families are higher than civilian screening rates in most communities. Murtha believed that beneficiary care for active military men and women was not just a requirement, it was an ethical mandate, he said.
"We're a firm believer that prevention is the best form of a cure," he said. "Thanks to his efforts in funding over the years with mammograms, research labs, within the DOD, there is a much higher screening rate of women who should be screened."
The center will continue partnerships the military already had with local cancer centers. Shriver said he will be at the Windber Research Institute Dec. 18 when the 50,000th specimen goes into the breast tissue repository. The repository contains cells that are being studied by researchers to develop cures and identify precursors to cancer.
"Those relationships have grown over the years, and we will continue to be a part of that going forward," he said.