As a physician, it is abundantly clear to me that autism should now be considered an epidemic in this country. In just the 14 years between graduating medical school and becoming a Congressman, the rate of autism occurrences rose drastically, which is why I was a founding member of the Congressional Autism Caucus.
My career in medicine taught me to listen to patients and follow the facts wherever they lead. That’s why I’ve spent years working with leaders in the autism community to discover any factors that contribute to its occurrence as well as explore all available research into its prevention, including removing vaccine components like mercury additives (i.e., the use of thimerosol as a preservative). I also worked against potential conflicts of interest by preventing scientists who developed vaccines from reviewing their safety, strengthening the integrity of the process and public confidence.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I regularly pressed leading health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health to thoroughly investigate every contributing factor and possible cure or prevention of autism. I also advocated for legislation and funding to improve interventions for the many Americans currently living with autism.
Understanding autism and searching for a cure is a passion that I will continue to carry with me. In 2004, I delivered an address at the Defeat Autism Now Conference and the keynote address to the Autism One Conference in Chicago regarding the autism epidemic affecting one in 163 children. I challenged public health officials to direct the funding to defeat this epidemic. Today, autism affects one in 88 children. America can’t afford further delay in autism research.