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Dr. Eve Elizabeth Slater

Year of Birth / Death

b. 1945

Medical School

Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons


New Jersey
District of Columbia

Career Path

Internal medicine: Cardiology
Dr. Eve Elizabeth Slater


Eve Elizabeth Slater, M.D., was the first woman to become assistant secretary for health in the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
Eve Elizabeth Slater, M.D., was the first woman to become chief resident in medicine in the 165-year history of Massachusetts General Hospital.


I became a doctor to translate biomedical advances to improve the human condition.


Dr. Eve Slater has worked in clinical and laboratory research, developed life-saving drugs, managed regulatory affairs at one of the largest pharmaceutical laboratories, and guided health policy decisions affecting the nation as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2002 to 2003. Former U.S. Secretary for Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson hailed Dr. Slater as a relentless advocate for the health and well-being of all Americans, and predicted that her tireless work at the Department of Health and Human Services would result in a lasting legacy of achievement.

Eve Slater was born in 1945 in West Orange, New Jersey. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Vassar College in 1967 and, as a member of the Alpha Omega Alpha medical honor society, earned her doctor of medicine degree from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1971. Her association with Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, began with an internship in internal medicine in 1971, a fellowship in cardiology in 1973, and her landmark appointment as chief resident in medicine in 1976. Dr. Slater was the first woman to hold that position in the hospital's 165-year history.

From 1977 through 1982, while serving as chief of the hypertension unit at Massachusetts General and as assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, Dr. Slater pursued research on hypertension and diseases of the aorta.

In 1983, Dr. Slater joined Merck Research Laboratories as senior director of biochemical endocrinology, where she guided teams of molecular biologists in researching receptors, endocrinology, and arteriosclerosis (the formation of calcium, fats, and cholesterol deposits in blood vessels). Her own research focus turned to cell signal transduction, the movement of biochemical signals from outside the cell to its interior, triggering cellular activity. She credits her experience in both clinical and basic research for her 1988 appointment to lead Merck Research Laboratories' worldwide regulatory affairs group. Dr. Slater was promoted to vice president of their Clinical and Regulatory Development in 1990 and senior vice president in 1994, becoming the first woman to attain those ranks. During her tenure as chief safety officer, the company had no product recalls or government-mandated safety labeling changes. They also received rapid approval for a key drug in the treatment of HIV that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in a near-record forty-two days.

Continuing to teach as her research career progressed, Dr. Slater remained an adjunct associate clinical professor of medicine at her alma mater, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, from 1983 through 2002.

President George W. Bush nominated Dr. Slater as assistant secretary for health in 2001, and she was confirmed in January 2002. In this role, which she held until February 2003, she oversaw the United States Public Health Service, including eight health agency divisions and the Commissioned Corps, which includes more than 6,000 uniformed health professionals. During her service, special emphasis was given to bioterrorism, the protection of human subjects, health care reform, women's health, care of the elderly, and HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Slater is a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and received the 2002 Dr. Luther Terry Award from the Public Health Service and the 2003 Virginia Kneeland Frantz Distinguished Women in Medicine Award, among many other honors and awards. She is the mother of two college-age sons and is an accomplished flutist who, in 1976, performed as a soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra under conductor Arthur Fiedler.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

My biggest obstacle has been trying to maintain a tireless commitment to the demands of the profession in the face of family obligations.

How do I make a difference?

I believe one makes a difference by serving as a role model.

Who was my mentor?

I have been fortunate to have had many mentors, who have included my biochemistry professor at Vassar College, clinician-teachers at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, several eminent cardiologists at Massachusetts General Hospital, and two presidents of research at Merck. The best examples, however, have been set by many of my patients.

How has my career evolved over time?

My medical degree has not only taken me to the bedside and the bench, where I have witnessed many discoveries and triumphs, it has also led me to being part of the teams who have introduced life-saving medicines and to the scene of health policy decisions for our country.