Surgeon General – confirmation needed

Vicek Murthy

by Deedra Abboud in Political
January 27, 2021 0 comments

President Biden announced Dr. Vivek Murthy would be his nominee for surgeon general.

If confirmed, Murthy will be the first Surgeon General to serve twice under two non-consecutive presidents as well as hold the distinction of being both the first and second Asian-American and Indian-American to hold the position.

The position: Providing public health information and advice. Oversees the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Vivek Hallegere Murthy was born in HuddersfieldYorkshire in 1977 to immigrants from Karnataka, India.

Dr. Murthy is the grandson of the late H C Narayana Murthy, the former director of Mysore Sugar Company, and son of Florida-based Dr. H N Lakshminarasimha Murthy and Myetraie Murthy.

In 1978 the family crossed the Atlantic to Newfoundland, where his father worked as a district medical officer. When he was three years old, the family relocated to Miami, and his parents established their medical practice.

Murthy was raised and completed his early education in Miami, graduating as valedictorian from Miami Palmetto Senior High School in 1994. 

He then attended college at Harvard University and graduated magna cum laude in 1997 with a bachelor of arts in biochemical sciences.

In 2003, Vivek received an MD from Yale School of Medicine and an MBA in Health Care Management, where he was a recipient of The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine in 2006 from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where he later joined the faculty as an Internal Medicine Physician and Instructor.

While a Harvard freshman in 1995, Murthy co-founded VISIONS Worldwide, with his sister, Rashmi, also a physician, which he led for eight years. The nonprofit organization focused on HIV/AIDS education in the U.S. and India.

He led this organization for eight years, first as President from 1995 to 2000 and then as Chairman of the Board from 2000 to 2003. As its president, he established ten chapters with hundreds of volunteers in the U.S. and India, and grew the organization’s education programs to reach more than 45,000 youth.

In 1997, he co-founded the Swasthya Community Health Partnership to train women as community health workers and teachers in rural India. During his five-year tenure with the organization, he established seed funding and helped expand research and direct care programs that reached tens of thousands of rural residents. It has a membership of about 16,000 doctors and medical students from across America.

He is also a founder and president of Doctors for America, a group of more than 15,000 physicians and medical students supporting high-quality affordable care for all, established in 2008.

In 2011, Murthy was appointed to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health within the Department of Health and Human Services. The group advises the National Prevention Council on developing strategies and partnerships to advance the nation’s health through prevention.

Murthy is also the co-founder and chairman of TrialNetworks, a cloud-based Clinical Trial Optimization System for pharmaceutical and biotechnology trials that improves the quality and efficiency of clinical trials to bring new drugs to market faster and more safely. He founded the company as Epernicus in 2008, originally, to be a collaborative networking web platform for scientists to boost research productivity.

In November 2013, Murthy was nominated by President Obama for the post of United States surgeon general.

His nomination met resistance in the Senate by some Democrats, Republicans, and the National Rifle Association regarding previous comments Murthy made declaring gun violence as a threat to public health.

Murthy’s nomination received broad support from more than 100 medical and public health organizations in the U.S.

He received the endorsements of two former surgeons general: David Satcher and Regina Benjamin.

Another former surgeon general, Richard Carmona opposed the appointment based on Murthy’s age. Murthy was 36.

On December 15, 2014, Murthy’s appointment as surgeon general was approved in a 51–43 Senate vote.

Murthy was the first surgeon general of Indian and Asian descent, and was the youngest active duty flag officer in federal uniformed service while serving in office.

At 37 years old, Dr. Murthy became the youngest Surgeon General in the history of the United States.

From the beginning of his tenure, Murthy spoke about the importance of creating a culture of prevention in America, one that is grounded in physical activity, nutrition, and emotional well-being. As part of this effort, he issued Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities.

He also partnered with Elmo and Top Chef to inform the country about vaccines and healthy eating, respectively.

 Murthy’s 2016 surgeon general report on e-cigarette use among youths emphasized the vulnerability of young people to the products and recommended that e-cigarettes be incorporated into existing smoke-free policies to prevent youth from accessing e-cigarettes. The report drew heated responses from proponents of e-cigarettes, including R Street and other public policy groups.

Murthy has worked on the effects of climate change on the country’s health and has spoken out against conversion therapy. [The pseudoscientific practice of trying to change an individual’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual using psychological, physical, or spiritual interventions. There is no reliable evidence that sexual orientation can be changed and medical institutions warn that conversion therapy practices are ineffective and potentially harmful.]

Using the latest scientific data, Murthy was the first U.S. Surgeon General to call on the nation to see alcohol and drug addictions as a chronic illness rather than a moralistic failing.

On April 21, 2017, Murthy was relieved of his duties by President Donald Trump. His deputy surgeon general, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, was named acting surgeon general.

Since 2017, Murthy has appeared on various television and radio shows talking about the problem of loneliness, and he has written numerous articles on the subject. Murthy states he was shocked by how often he encountered people suffering from severe loneliness during his medical career, and argued that loneliness in America has become prevalent enough to count as an “epidemic”. Murthy sees loneliness as a root cause that plays a substantial role in many other social problems.

In April 2020 he published a book about what both society and ordinary people as individuals, can do to reduce loneliness in themselves and others, entitled Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World.

On November 9, Murthy was announced as one of the three co-chairs of then-President-Elect Biden’s coronavirus advisory board, alongside former FDA Commissioner David A. Kessler and Yale public health professor Marcella Nunez-Smith.

Dr. Murthy has been married to Dr. Alice Chen since 2015 and they have two children.

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