Published February 26, 2014
In 2009, I wrote an article supporting the nomination of Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, for the position of U.S. surgeon general.
I supported Dr. Gupta’s nomination because my dear colleague is a man who has built up tremendous medical credentials working as a practicing neurosurgeon for many years. Furthermore, he has travelled the world, seeing firsthand the health care challenges people face every day. He represented to me the embodiment of “America’s Doctor.”
But in my humble opinion, the latest nominee for U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, does not qualify to be our nation’s doctor. My criticism is based largely on Murthy’s level of clinical experience. Murthy is 36 years old and, to his credit, received his medical degree from Yale School of Medicine, one of the most prestigious medical school programs in the country. This is certainly an achievement that I can’t claim.
But a medical school does not a doctor make. To me, a doctor is a man or a woman that actively dedicates his or her life to the art of healing – and that cannot be achieved overnight.
The biggest responsibility of the U.S. surgeon general is to provide the American public with the best scientific information regarding disease prevention. But the surgeon general is also responsible for overseeing thousands of men and women in uniform, including the Medical Reserve Corp (MRC) – a group of volunteers responsible for promoting and advancing the health of our nation.
Is Murthy qualified to run such an important health care oversight service? In my opinion, he would not even qualify to run a department at an academic medical center at this point in his career.
Most university hospitals are split into multiple departments: medicine, surgery, anesthesiology, trauma, etc. Some of those departments contain two or three physicians, while others have hundreds of physicians and researchers working within their walls. Each of these departments is headed by a chairman or chairwoman – usually professors of medicine in their own specialties who have vast clinical experience. Those chairmen or chairwomen are picked by a selective committee of peers who look for credentials, experience and contributions in science.
At the ripe old age of 36, Murthy would not even come close to being picked to run any medical department, in any academic medical center in this country. This is not because he is a bad doctor, but simply because he has not contributed enough, published enough or healed enough to qualify him to be a medical leader.
Since 2008, Murthy has dedicated his career to achieving a political agenda, forming groups like Doctors for America, which has lobbied heavily for ObamaCare. Miraculously enough, that political campaign seems to have now paid off and earned him this nomination.
To me, health care should be 80 percent science and 20 percent politics – not the other way around. I hope that the president reconsiders this nomination and instead chooses a doctor who better personifies the greatness of America’s medical and scientific achievements. After all, the healing power achieved in America’s hospitals is mimicked by hospitals around the world, and sought out by patients everywhere.
And to Dr. Vivek Murthy: As we say in New Jersey – it’s not personal, it’s just business.