Posts Tagged 'surgeon general'

Sanjay Gupta for Surgeon General?

There is a lot of interesting discussion about whether Dr. Sanjay Gupta is the best, or even a responsible pick for surgeon general. It seems like most are settling into two major camps: 1) Gupta is a powerful communicator who would be able to explain complex health jargon in terms that the everyman can understand or, 2) despite is eloquence and on-stage presence, Gupta lacks the significant public health policy work to even be considered for the job.

Jacob Goldstein from camp #1:

There’s a certain logic to picking a TV talking head to be surgeon general, because the surgeon general is largely a talking head. The top doc does oversee the 6,000-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, but the real work of the job is traveling around the country, using the job as a bully pulpit to advance a public health agenda.

In this media-saturated era, who could do that better than a doc who’s famous for explaining health issues on cable TV?

Christine Gorman from camp #2:

If the Surgeon General were just a health educator, then Gupta, who I like very much (for one thing, he never gave me grief when I edited his columns at TIME), would be a surprising but logical step. But there are also policy issues. The SG is supposed to lead the 6,000-person U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. (Per comments on one of my earlier posts, morale there seems very low.) There is also talk Gupta will play a role in the Office of Health Reform (Washington Post), perhaps as salesman for whatever national health care reform the Obama Administration offers?

If Gupta and the Obama Administration are serious about the Surgeon General’s position, then we need to examine this possible nomination more closely.

I tend to side with camp #2. I definitely think that the Surgeon General has a more substantive role to play in the discussion of reforming public health policy than, perhaps, Gupta would be able to play. He has no public health experience and, although a very accomplished physician and neurosurgeon,  there are many others who would be better suited to handle the job of promoting health equity.

However, I do like the argument that Gupta will be able to bring name recognition and an intensely heightened awareness amongst average Americans about public health issues. This is important, and perhaps his sales job for Obama’s health care strategy would be a valuable tool for serious health care reformers. Unfortunately, I don’t see him as a serious health care reformer and I don’t know whether others will either.

There is of course the other issue: Surgeon General does not pay nearly as well as a the cushy job as the host of CNN’s House Calls with Sanjay Gupta.


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