This week’s news that Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical correspondent, is being considered for the office of
Surgeon General by President-elect Obama came as quite a shock to me. I’ve met and interviewed 3 of the
recent Surgeons General over the past few years. Of course, I like
Sanjay Gupta as a reporter. He’s a fine communicator and does a good
job covering subjects for a consumer audience. But I don’t think he has
the gravitas or appropriate experience for the role of Surgeon General
of the United States.
I spoke with one source close to the nomination proceedings, and he
said that most senior people were secretly disappointed with the
choice. My source requested that I not reveal his name.
If Sanjay Gupta is confirmed as Surgeon General he will
achieve the immediate rank of admiral, even though he has no previous
military or public health experience whatsoever. It will be difficult
for Gupta to be taken seriously by peers at the Pentagon and State
Department. The office of Surgeon General is a very important position
given only to the most senior and experienced medical professionals
with decades of achievements in their fields. Gupta is a good reporter,
he should consider a role in public relations for the U.S. government,
not the office of Surgeon General.
When the Bush administration chose an inexperienced person, Mike
Brown, to head FEMA – it was a disaster. I hope that the Obama
administration doesn’t make a similar mistake with Gupta. However, a
nomination is not a confirmation – Gupta still has to be approved by
Senator Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
before taking the office of Surgeon General. Unfortunately, it’s
possible that the committee will feel pressured to confirm Gupta to
maintain a good relationship with the new administration, rather than
to vote their conscience. But I can tell you that many people are not
pleased with this nomination, and feel that there are more appropriate
choices that are being overlooked.
It will be interesting to see how far this nomination goes, and if
there will be an outcry from the military and medical community over
Sanjay Gupta’s apparent nomination.
Val Jones, M.D., is the President and CEO of Better Health, LLC. Most
recently she was the Senior Medical Director of Revolution Health, a
consumer health portal with over 120 million page views per month in
its network. Prior to her work with Revolution Health, Dr. Jones served
as the founding editor of Clinical Nutrition & Obesity, a
peer-reviewed e-section of the online Medscape medical journal. She currently blogs at Get Better Health, where this post first appeared.