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To Improve Human Health: A History of the Institute of Medicine
autonomy the IOM would enjoy. Because the Board on Medicine and the Robbins-era IOM devoted so much time to these endeavors, they accomplished less in the way of completing studies than they might otherwise have. In both eras, the country stood on the cusp of social and political change. The Board on Medicine began during the Great Society and concluded its work during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Robbins's tenure started at a time when the IOM enjoyed a tight relationship with the Carter administration and ended when the Reagan administration was at the height of its powers.
It was to Fred Robbins's credit that he adjusted to changes in the external environment without succumbing to despair. He learned to work with the Reagan administration, sometimes as a collaborator and sometimes as an adversary. The results were highly acclaimed studies on such topics as the organization of the National Institutes of Health and low birthweight babies. Although the course of the Sproull committee's work disheartened him, he kept the IOM on course, like the leader of a nation during a civil war. If Fred Robbins left many problems with which his successor would have to deal, he also started many projects, such as one on the future of public health, that would come to fruition under his successor. Because of Robbins's perseverance, his successor would also deal with a foundation community that was somewhat chastened by its experience with the Sproull report and more predisposed than before to consider providing the IOM with an endowment. Of all of Robbins's achievements, however, perhaps the very fact that there was an IOM to pass on to Sam Thier constituted the greatest accomplishment of all.
IOM Council Meeting, Minutes, March 19, 1980, Institute of Medicine (IOM) Records, National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Archives.
"Summary of Discussion, IOM Program Committee Meeting, March 26, 1980," Yordy Files—Second Series, Accession 94-111, IOM Records.
"Meeting of the Presidential Search Committee, July 18, 1979," Search Committee Files, Accession 93-192, IOM Records.
"Steps Taken in the 1979 Search," Search Committee Files, Accession 93-192, IOM Records.
William Danforth to Philip Handler, December 21, 1979, Search Committee Files, Accession 93-192, IOM Records.
"Nobel Laureate Named New President of Institute," IOM Press Release, March 7, 1980, Search Committee Files, Accession 93–192, IOM Records.