WASHINGTON – Surgeon General David Satcher, a Clinton appointee who drew the anger of the Bush White House last summer with a medical report on sexuality, says he will leave the government in February.
"My term ends on Feb. 13 and I don't plan to stay on," Satcher said Friday in an interview with The Associated Press.
Asked if he would like to stay on, Satcher said, "That's not an issue for me."
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson praised Satcher, but when asked if he would recommend to Bush that the doctor be retained as surgeon general, he said: "That is not my decision. That is a decision that Dr. Satcher and the president will have to make."
Satcher rankled the White House last summer when his office released a report that found there was no evidence showing that teaching sexual abstinence in schools was successful. It called for schools to encourage abstinence among students but to also teach birth control techniques.
Additionally, the report found that there was no evidence that a gay person could become heterosexual.
The report drew a sharp retort from Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer and demands from political conservatives for Satcher's resignation.
"The president understands the report was issued by a surgeon general that he did not appoint, a surgeon general who was appointed by the previous administration," said Fleischer at the time. "The president continues to believe that abstinence and abstinence education is the most effective way to prevent AIDS, to prevent unwanted pregnancy."
Satcher said he was not taking sides in a political discussion but reflecting what scientific research showed.
"We try to make very clear what's needed to improve sexual health and what's supported by the science," he said in an interview at the time.
Satcher became the 16th U.S. surgeon general in 1998 after confirmation opposition led in the Senate by then-Sen. John Ashcroft, R-Mo., who is now Bush's attorney general.
The 60-year-old Satcher was born in Anniston, Ala., and raised in an era when poor black families such as his had little access to medical care in his state. The experience helped his resolve to become a doctor.
Satcher earned a bachelor's degree from Morehouse College and medical and doctoral degrees from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
He practiced family medicine in Los Angeles for a time and then moved into academia, serving as a professor at Morehouse School of Medicine and as president of Meharry Medical College in Nashville.
In 1993, Satcher was named director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a position he was holding when Clinton appointed him surgeon general.