Sanjay Gupta Could Be Out of the Running for Surgeon General

Despite the initial fanfare, Sanjay Gupta looks to be out of the running for the post of surgeon general, according to the director of the group representing Gupta's would-be health team. 

Jerry Farrell, who heads the Commissioned Officers Association, told FOXNews.com Thursday that CNN's chief medical correspondent is known to have taken himself out of consideration. 

"The general consensus from everybody is Gupta is no longer in contention ... it's more he's withdrawing himself," Farrell said, citing conversations he's had with "well-placed" individuals. 

Farrell's group represents the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, which the surgeon general oversees. 

He said hopeful candidates have been calling his organization's office since last week expressing their interest in the post after word got out that "the bidding process was open again." 

A spokeswoman for CNN had no comment on Gupta's standing, and Farrell said he has not spoken with Gupta personally. 

But considering two months have passed since CNN acknowledged Gupta was being vetted for the post, information about the progress of the surgeon general nomination is curiously scarce in Washington. 

"No one has yet been nominated or confirmed for the surgeon general position, and we've heard nothing," said Jennifer Buschick, a spokeswoman with the Office of the Surgeon General. 

"We never [announced] a candidate for the post, and I don't have any updates at this time," a White House aide wrote in an e-mail to FOXNews.com. 

Farrell said he's been told Gupta had misgivings about both the pay-cut he would have to take and the fact that he might be reporting to two high-level bosses. 

Gupta's name surfaced after President Obama had tapped former Sen. Tom Daschle to be health secretary and the head of the new White House Office of Health Reform. Farrell said Gupta was apparently offered a dual position in the White House health reform office as well -- and would have been serving under Daschle in both cases. 

But after Daschle withdrew his name because of tax problems, Obama subsequently nominated separate candidates for health secretary and health reform office director -- meaning Gupta could have had two different bosses with different sets of priorities. 

"The parameters of the job were no longer clear and perhaps not as appealing," Farrell said. "I just think the ground shifted underneath Dr. Gupta." 

Then there was the pay cut. 

As surgeon general, Gupta would make about $153,000, according to public information on federal salaries. It's unclear what Gupta's contracts are currently worth, but the surgeon general salary would be considerably less. 

Gupta has established a lucrative brand in the niche field of health media -- he hosts "House Call" on CNN, and contributes to CBS News and Time magazine. He is also on the staff at Emory University's School of Medicine in Atlanta and is associate chief of neurosurgery at Emory University Hospital. 

"It would be an enormous pay cut," said Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. 

Benjamin said "nobody knows" whether Gupta is still in the running and that he hasn't heard any updates. But he suggested an official nomination might not be in the immediate future anyway, since mid-level posts like surgeon general are typically announced after the health secretary is confirmed. 

That process was delayed after Daschle withdrew his nomination in early February; Obama got the process back on track only over the weekend, when he tapped Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for the job. 

Though Gupta is a high-profile TV personality and was expected to elevate the Office of the Surgeon General much as C. Everett Koop did under President Reagan, some had concerns about his credentials. 

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich, urged colleagues to oppose the nomination because Gupta lacks the "requisite experience" for the job. 

But the surgeon general comes for confirmation before the Senate, not the House, and Farrell said Conyers' objections probably did not have much bearing on the process. 

Farrell said he would prefer the eventual nominee come from within the ranks of the Commissioned Corps, and he said Acting Surgeon General Rear Adm. Steven Galson, who would meet that criterion, should be considered.