Vivek Murthy talks about his work in India to burnish credentials to be the next Surgeon General of the US

AAPI lobbies hard for Murthy.

By Deepak Chitnis

Dr. Vivek Murthy (courtesy of Epernicus)
Dr. Vivek Murthy (courtesy of Epernicus)

WASHINGTON, DC: Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy is in the midst of his Senate confirmation hearings, which will determine if he is to be the next Surgeon General of the US and the first-ever Indian American to hold the title, and he is getting plenty of support from Indian American physicians too.

During his hearing earlier on Tuesday, Murthy spoke at length about his professional accomplishments, particularly in his home country of India. Murthy explained the various healthcare programs he founded in the country in an effort to show lawmakers that he is, in fact, the best choice to hold the nation’s top-most healthcare office.

Murthy talked about a program he founded called Swasthya, which helps train young women in rural communities throughout the subcontinent in basic healthcare principals and techniques, as well as foster within them the desire and abilities to pursue healthcare as a career. Additionally, he has created several HIV/AIDS awareness programs in his capacity as a public health educator, including one called VISIONS.

It is this vision of his, along with his impeccable resume, that has Democrats lauding Murthy and highly endorsing him for the Surgeon General position.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Health Committee, said that Murthy’s knowledge and expertise are exactly what is needed for the job, while Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren echoed those sentiments.

But Republicans have been less than kind, saying that Murthy is too young – he’s 36 years old – and that he lacks the requisite experience to be Surgeon General. Republicans are also wary of any Democrat move in the healthcare field after the disastrous launch of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) last October, and are likely to block anything that President Barack Obama tries to do in that sector.

That doesn’t seem to be diminishing Murthy’s spirits, however, and others in Washington are coming to his side in support of his appointment. One of those is the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), which is lobbying hard to get Murthy confirmed.

A host of the organization’s top names have flown into Washington, DC to meet with Congressional leaders and urge them to vote for Murthy. AAPI is a large and well-respected organization on Capitol Hill, and regularly hosts forums and meetings with lawmakers to advocate for or against legislation. They represent the roughly 80,000 desi doctors in the US, which constitutes just under 10% of the total 850,000 across the country.

“Vivek represents the next generation of Indian American physician,” said Dr. Harbhajan Ajrawat, AAPI Legislative Committee chairman, in a statement. “His ethics, quiet leadership style and impeccable credentials make him the smart choice for this position. We will certainly mobilize the physician community to support his confirmation.”

So far, AAPI representative are reported to have met with lawmakers such as Rep. Rand Paul (R-KY), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Sen. Rim Scott (R-SC), and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the latter of who spoke out against Murthy during the Senate confirmation hearings.

Murthy is currently a Hospitalist Attending Physician and Instructor in Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Harvard University and his M.D. from the Yale School of Medicine; he then received his M.B.A. from the Yale School of Management.

In 1995, he co-founded VISIONS Worldwide, a non-profit organization focused on HIV/AIDS education in India and the US. He served as President until 2000 and Chairman of the Board until 2003. In 2007, he co-founded TrialNetworks (previously known as Epernicus), a “clinical trial optimization system” company, where he was the co-founder and Chairman of the Board. In 2009, he became the co-founder and president of Doctors for America, and two years later was appointed to serve as a member of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

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