Last night, the Senate approved President Obama’s nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as U.S. surgeon general, and I believe that was a mistake.
I am not alone in my opposition as both Republicans and some Democrats have voiced concerns over Murthy’s nomination. However, my opposition stems from a medical standpoint, not a political one.
Though the nation has been without a Senate-confirmed surgeon general for 17 months, I do not believe Dr. Murthy qualifies to fill the void.
Touting his nominee, Obama said Murthy “makes us better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home.” He also said that he “will help us build on the progress we’ve made combatting Ebola, both in our country and at its source” in West Africa. I challenge that.
Unlike Dr. Sanjay Gupta – who I supported for the role in 2009 and has travelled the world seeing, firsthand, the health care challenges people face every day, and spent many years building up tremendous medical credentials as a practicing neurosurgeon – Murthy, who is 37, has dedicated much of his career to achieving a political agenda, and lobbying heavily for ObamaCare.
To his credit, Murthy received his medical degree from Yale School of Medicine, one of the most prestigious medical school programs in the country, and an achievement that I certainly cannot claim. But a medical school does not a doctor make. A doctor is a man or a woman who actively dedicates his or her life to the art of healing – and that’s an accomplishment which 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 whose mission is to promote and advance the health of our nation.
Is Murthy qualified to run such an important health care oversight service? In my opinion, at this point in his career, he would not even quality to run a department at an academic medical center.
Most university hospitals are split into multiple departments: medicine, surgery, anesthesiology, trauma etc. Some of the departments have two or three physicians, while others may have hundreds of physicians and researchers working within their walls. Each is headed by a chairman or chairwoman who has vast clinical experience. The chairmen or chairwomen are chosen by a selective committee of peers who consider credentials, experience and contributions to their field.
Murthy wouldn’t even be on the committee’s radar.
That is not a jab at his skillset as a doctor, it’s simply because he has not contributed enough, published enough or healed enough to qualify him to be a medical leader. Although he practices and teaches at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and teaches at Harvard Medical School, since 2008, it seems he has also dedicated a good deal of his time contributing to the political playing field.
Murthy formed the group Doctors for America – formerly known as Doctors for Obama -- which lobbied heavily for ObamaCare, and evidently paid off in earning his nomination and subsequent confirmation as surgeon general. He’s also waded into the gun control debate, publicly voicing his support for tighter regulations and making gun violence a public health issue.
While supporters hailed his noted promise not to use the position of surgeon general as a bully pulpit for gun control, others challenged whether it is appropriate for America’s top doctor to participate in political activism.
I agree with the challengers. To me, health care should be 80 percent science and 20 percent politics – not the other way around. I had hoped that the president would reconsider his nomination and choose a better doctor who personifies the greatness of America’s medical and scientific achievements. I guess now all that we can do is hope Murthy keeps good on his pledge to leave politics out of his medical agenda, and that he’s not just a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's senior managing health editor. He also serves as chairman of the department of obstetrics/gynecology and reproductive science at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. Click here for more information on Dr. Manny's work with Hackensack University Medical Center. Visit AskDrManny.com for more.