Nomination hanging for more than a year now.
By Sujeet Rajan
NEW YORK: Senator Mark Warner, who was a former governor of Virginia, has added his voice to the growing clamor on Capitol Hill and by physician affiliated organizations and health experts to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy as the Surgeon General of the United States, a nomination by President Barack Obama which has been stalled for more than a year now by Republicans.
Warner released this statement in support of Murthy: “Dr. Murthy brings an entrepreneurial focus, and he is committed to using technology to expand our outreach on health and wellness in innovative ways. I believe he will make an excellent Surgeon General.”
Many Democrats, Capitol Hill insiders, and Indian American advocates of the Democratic Party, believe that the lame duck session is perhaps Murthy’s best shot at getting confirmed. His confirmation is likely to be stonewalled once the session gets over, and Republicans assume control of the Senate, along with the majority in the House, next month.
The contentious issue of Obamacare and the impasse over immigration reforms is likely to pose major challenges for nominations to go through, from next month onwards.
Murthy was nominated for Surgeon General by Obama in November, 2013. A bipartisan group of Senators approved his nomination in February 2014 and pushed it forward for a full vote, which never happened after some Republicans pounced upon a tweet by Murthy which came down hard upon the National Rifle Association (NRA), and seemed to suggest that guns should be made part of the public health debate.
This is what Murthy had tweeted, to which Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander, who won re-election this year, took note of and ultimately snowballed into a major issue:
‘Tired of politicians playing politics w/ guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of NRA. Guns are a health care issue. #debatehealth’
Recently, the pro-Murthy camp got into full swing to campaign anew for his confirmation. Sources told The American Bazaar that the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) and the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America (APPNA) have both lobbied on behalf of Murthy.
Murthy was born in the UK, and moved with his family to Florida when he was three years old. He has an MD and an MBA from Yale.
Last month, more than 100 national organizations – including the American Public Health Association (APHA) and Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) – sent a letter to members of the Senate urging them to confirm Murthy as the next surgeon general.
“I have seen Dr. Murthy’s highly skilled work firsthand—he is an inspirational leader who can bring the medical and public health communities together to create a culture of health in America,” said Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of TFAH and chair of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health, in a statement. “The avalanche of support from the public health community for Dr. Murthy’s nomination demonstrates the importance of confirming him.”
Also, leading public health experts and organizations – including Dr. David Satcher, APHA, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and many others – released individual letters in support of Murthy becoming the next surgeon general.
Dr. Satcher, surgeon general under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, wrote in his letter of support: “Dr. Murthy’s impressive track record of accomplishments as an innovative and well-respected thought leader in health care will prove to be invaluable to the American people.”
Kathy Ko Chin, president & CEO of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum, in a column on The Hill, wrote: “This year, Americans have confronted Ebola at home and abroad, seen Enterovirus rattle parents with young children and continued to face a host of health issues impacting every community. We have faced all of these challenges without a Surgeon General, a calm and consistent national voice on health matters.”
She continued: “Murthy would build on the Office of the Surgeon General’s five decades of work to lessen smoking among young Americans and tackle tobacco related death and disease. The issue is paramount as tobacco use increases the risks of stroke, heart disease and cancer, all leading causes of death for Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. Murthy’s promise to fight tobacco use will benefit not just these communities, but all who suffer from the effects.”
A physician, Alex Smith (@AlexSmithMD) on GeriPal, a geriatrics and palliative care blog, wrote this in favor of Murthy: “I know Dr. Murthy. We were in the same small primary care residency at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Vivek was one year below me, in a class of four residents per year. We spent countless hours together in journal club, our patient-doctor course, and on the wards. Vivek Murthy is one of the most humble, brilliant, innovative, and caring physicians I have ever met. Vivek Murthy is a fresh face with new ideas for leadership in healthcare.”
Writing in the Huffington Post, Carolyn M. Senger, a Preventive Medicine physician, castigated politicians for the delay in confirming Murthy.
Senger wrote: “The delay in confirming this highly qualified physician during a public health crisis strictly for political reasons is shameful. It’s time to put patients over politics. It’s time to put science over special interests. We can be a healthier and safer nation, but we need to act. Let your Senators know that enough is enough. The Senate should confirm this Surgeon General nominee during the lame-duck session. Our nation needs its doctor. Our nation needs Dr. Vivek Murthy.”