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Policy: Health Care

Vivek Murthy shouldn't be confirmed as surgeon general

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Opinion,Congress,Op-Eds,Health Care,Presidential Appointees,Surgeon General,Vivek Murthy

In December 2013, I sent a letter to President Obama expressing my nonpartisan concerns about Dr. Vivek Murthy, his nominee to be the next surgeon general.

Now as senators consider his nomination, I would like to share those concerns with them and the American public.

This is not meant to be personal; in fact, I have never met Murthy. However, at just 36 years of age, Murthy is only a few years out of his residency and has very limited public health education and experience. I believe he is unqualified to effectively serve as the nation's doctor.

The U.S. surgeon general is responsible for providing government leaders and the American public with the best scientific information available about how to respond to catastrophic public health events and emerging public health threats, as well as ways to improve their general health and well-being. The surgeon general also oversees the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, an elite group of more than 6,700 uniformed public health professionals whose mission is to protect, promote, and advance the health of our nation.

Recently, Murthy has received support and criticism from numerous special interest groups, especially gun rights and gun control groups. This is part of the process in our democracy. However, the real issue is whether a nominee has the proven leadership skills, education, experience and training to merit consideration to be the nation's doctor and the commander of the USPHS.

I believe Murthy, at this point in his career, does not.

Our nation's public health is in a constant state of risk from potential terrorist attacks, natural disasters, threats from infectious diseases, a growing obesity epidemic, lack of access to regular primary care visits or emergency trauma care, shortcomings in preventative screenings, a dearth of health literacy — and yes — mass shooting events.

At the same time there is a tremendous disparity in the availability of health information and health care among population groups. Doctors are being forced to close their offices or turn away patients because of rising costs and lowering reimbursement rates. And questions loom about how we control the cost of health care while still providing the medicine and surgical care patients need to survive, as well as investing in new technologies and discovery.

I believe that medical education is a lifelong process, and with each challenge — from treating AIDS patients to running a hospital in an underserved community to responding to a multiple-person shooting — doctors become better doctors. And being afforded the honor of being the nation's doctor is a position that is earned after years of accumulated knowledge working with diverse populations in demanding situations.

The surgeon general must have the skills and, more importantly, the experience, to inform the government's leaders, educate the American public and help heal the ailing public health sector.

Someday, Murthy may very well attain the knowledge and experience to be a trusted surgeon general. However, to put him in this position so early in his career would only serve to weaken the position — and could doom Murthy to failure.

Dr. Richard Carmona served as U.S. surgeon general from 2002-2006 and was a Democratic Senate candidate from Arizona in 2012. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.
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