Politics No Place in Job of Surgeon General

State Representative Bob DeWeese

 

OP-ED
By State Representative Bob DeWeese

FRANKFORT, Ky. (December 18, 2014) – Washington, D.C. is a political town. It should come as no surprise to anyone that many times appointments are made based more upon political support than thought as to who would excel in the office. It is a sad reality of our current hyper-partisan world.

While none of these appointments are exactly palatable, it pains me even more to see them in roles where partisanship should be set aside and the general welfare of our citizens be given top priority. Case in point is the recent confirmation by the U.S. Senate of Dr. Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General of the United States.

Often overlooked, the Surgeon General plays a vital role in our society. Since the office was established in 1871, the Surgeon General has been the leading spokesperson in our nation on matters of public health. Though given no actual policymaking authority, the men and women who have held the esteemed position have oftentimes been able to use it as a bully pulpit to highlight social and medical issues.

Dr. Murthy’s resume, so far, has been impressive. His academic credentials, as a graduate of Harvard and the Yale School of Medicine, are strong. And, since then, he has held coveted positions as an attending physician and instructor at Harvard Medical School. He has also been actively involved in both private sector and charitable medical associations. At an age of 37, he has accomplished much. That is without question, but is it enough for such an honor? The question then, is posed, what has Dr. Murthy done to set himself apart from many other qualified doctors to warrant nomination and confirmation as Surgeon General? From what I can gather, it is most likely the fact that he served as President and was the co-founder of Doctors for America (formerly known as Doctors for Obama), an organization developed for the sole purpose of the election of President Obama and the promotion of Obamacare. While I would commend any physician for being politically active, I do not believe this item rises to the occasion to warrant Dr. Murthy to hold such a prestigious position.

Additionally, Dr. Murthy has been vocal in regard to the current debate on gun control, going so far as to refer to guns as a threat to our nation’s public health. Doctors for America even fought for Florida physicians to be able to place a note in a person’s medical file stating he/she simply owns a firearm. While, clearly everyone has the right to personal opinion regarding this issue, for someone with such pre-formed views to serve as a spokesperson for public health is questionable.

To his credit, Dr. Murthy has made the statement that he does not intend to use the position as a bully pulpit for gun control. However, his role as Surgeon General will cause many to give him credibility way beyond his term in the office, enabling him to have a wider audience for his positions.

I find it disappointing that someone so young in the profession as a physician and with such radical positions would be nominated by President Obama and confirmed by the Senate. I commend the 43 U.S. Senators, including both Senators McConnell and Paul, for voting against his confirmation.

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Rep. Bob DeWeese serves as Caucus Chairman of the House Republican Caucus. He represents the 48th District, which is a portion of Jefferson and Oldham counties. He is a retired surgeon and past president of the Kentucky Medical Association.


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