Dr. Vivek Murthy was confirmed as the new US Surgeon General by a narrow Senate vote of 51-43 on Monday, Dec. 15. This position has been filled after a year of resistance by Republicans influenced by NRA and the gun lobby, which kept the seat vacant even in the face of the recent Ebola health scare.
President Obama’s pick was stonewalled due to his vocal anti-gun stance and his conviction that guns are “injurious to health.” His political activities during the Obama presidential campaign and his support for the Affordable Healthcare Act, all made him unpopular with the GOP, the NRA and conservative media. Even some Democrats from red states held back their support during an unpredictable election year.
Vivek Murthy’s credentials as the new US Surgeon General were never in doubt. His excellence traces back to his high school where he graduated as valedictorian. He graduated from Harvard University, magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences in three years. A double MD and MBA degree from Yale followed. He is currently an attending physician in internal medicine at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston. He combines public health advocacy with teaching medicine at Harvard Medical School.
He operates two international community health groups; VISIONS Worldwide Inc., centers its work on rural health education in India, and the other on HIV/AIDS education in India and the United States. He is the founder of TrialNetworks, a startup in Needham, Mass., which collects data from clinical trials for drug companies through improved processes, so new drugs can be marketed sooner and safely. He is co-founder and president of Doctors for America, formerly Doctors for Obama; their goal is to improve health-care access.
These political and policy advocacies led some republicans such as Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyoming to argue that his experience lies more in being an activist focused on gun control and political campaigns, than a medical doctor.
Over 100 organizations have thrown their support behind Vivek Murthy’s appointment, including the American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, American Public Health Association, and the American College of Physicians. They all agree that Dr. Murthy is a qualified visionary and innovative leader with a solid commitment towards public health.
Senior health administration officials under past presidents have urged his confirmation. Other anti-gun violence groups, such as Gabby Giffords’ Americans for Responsible Solutions, and the Michael Bloomberg-backed Everytown for Gun Safety, praised this. The Indian American communityLalso rallied behind Vivek Murthy with staunch support.
As surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy will bring health advocacy on to the national stage. Prior incumbents have been successful in using this prestigious and prominent position to educate the public on health threats such as smoking and AIDS. Murthy’s focus will be on the prevention of chronic illnesses, further curbing smoking, diet and nutrition programs to prevent obesity and promote fitness. While not a cabinet member, the Surgeon General nonetheless has a powerful platform on which he can champion issues integral to the health of the nation.
Senator Edward J. Markey, D-Massachusetts stated that Vivek Murthy would be a trust-worthy voice that will communicate these issues to the American people as he is the full package. Murthy has the needed medical skills, academic background, and public policy health experience.
President Obama, in welcoming the confirmation of his appointment, stated that Murthy would immediately be able to disseminate the information and knowledge that Americans need to ensure health for themselves and their families. He would also finally be able to help the Administration’s drive to combat the still-present threat of the Ebola virus.
Murthy, 37, of Indian origin, was born in England. He moved to Miami with his parents at the age of three. His showed early promise of a medical career as he haunted his physician father’s clinic and knew then that he wanted the same profession. He is the first surgeon general of Indian descent, the youngest, and the 19th to hold this position.
Vivek Murthy, the new US Surgeon General, talks the talk and walks the walk. As a prime example of health and fitness, Murthy follows a healthy balanced diet, and practices yoga daily to keep in shape. He personifies the image he wants America to model itself on – healthy, fit and disease-free.
By Bina Joseph