Carmona could be logical pick for HHS job

Merrill Goozner
has been speculating about who will be nominated as the new Secretary
of HHS. He reviewed his most likely candidates (David Cutler or David
Blumenthal), and threw in a “dark horse” potential nominee: Ken Thorpe
(whom I’ve interviewed several times on this blog and spent time with during Obama’s inauguration ceremony).

Tommy Thompson told me that the nominee is likely to be a current or former democratic governor (such as Kathleen Sebelius or Howard Dean).

But I’ve been pondering the “long shot” question and think that
Goozner may have missed a more obvious choice – someone who works with
Ken Thorpe at the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease: former Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona.

Here are the 10 reasons why Richard Carmona would be a smart choice for Secretary of HHS (in random order):

1.    He was confirmed by the senate as Surgeon General in 2002 and
lived under their scrutiny during his term of service, meaning he has
no hidden secrets, tax or nanny problems likely to embarrass Obama and
could be confirmed rapidly – perhaps in under a week. 2.    He has
forged extensive good relationships with both parties over the course
of his tenure as Surgeon General and is known internationally.
3.    He has been the CEO of a large, public health system (including
hospitals, Medicare and Medicaid clinics, nursing homes, and emergency
medical systems in Arizona).
4.    He has been a paramedic, nurse, and physician and understands the healthcare system from the inside out.
5.    He has a track record of leadership in prevention, preparedness,
health disparities, health literacy, global health and health
diplomacy. He has worked on both sides of the aisle, including
assisting Senator Kennedy with issues of disability and socio-economic
determinants of health.
6.    He is Hispanic, which ads additional diversity to the Obama leadership team.
7.    He has experience managing local, state and federal health
programs, including significant experience in immigration and border
health issues.
8.    He demonstrated competency and leadership as manager of the US
Public Health Service of over 6000 uniformed public health officers
both nationally and internationally.
9.    He has extensive military experience, and is a combat-decorated
Vietnam veteran. He maintains a strong relationship with military
surgeons general and the department of defense.
10.    The fact that he is a political independent might actually
provide a middle ground for parties with differing agendas in health

Is point number 10 a deal breaker? It may be, but Obama could look
farther and do much worse. And while the clock is ticking and
credibility is paramount (as Maggie Mahar wrote,
“Reform needs to be overseen by someone who is perceived as being above
suspicion—purer than Caesar’s wife”) I think the Obama/Biden team needs
to take a closer look at Dr. Carmona. He’s actually the most
experienced, low risk candidate under discussion – and could truly hit
the ground running at HHS. And wouldn’t it be nice to have a physician
who is also a health policy expert with advanced managerial experience
at the head of the healthcare reform table?

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  1. Dr. Carmona would be a tremendous pick. It would be great to have a doctor lead the agency and his management experience would be vital in trying to get that huge bureaucracy running the right way.
    He doesn’t need on-the-job training and knows how to best utilize the Public Health Service.
    At a time when we need real health care reform who could be more qualified than a DOCTOR, who MANAGED a health care system, and is a FATHER of four?

  2. As Surgeon General, he was almost invisible. Why pick an HHS Secretary who would be invisible when you want to push a health care reform agenda?