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Chronic disease one focus for new surgeon general

December 16, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA, will focus on chronic disease prevention, smoking cessation, healthful eating and fighting obesity and the Ebola virus as surgeon general, President Barack Obama said. The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination of Murthy for the position on Monday, more than a year after the president nominated him.

“As ‘America’s doctor,’ Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe,” Obama said in a statement.

Murthy, 37, most recently was an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School and a hospitalist attending physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston. He is co-founder and president of Doctors of America, a nonprofit organization with thousands of physician and medical student members working to ensure access to healthcare. He also co-founded VISIONS Worldwide, a nonprofit organization focused on HIV/AIDS education in India and the United States, and TrialNetworks, a Massachusetts software startup company that helps drug developers collect information from clinical trials. He holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University and MD and MBA degrees from Yale University.

The surgeon general oversees 6,700 members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and chairs the National Prevention Council, a group of 20 federal departments and agencies committed to prevention and wellness for individuals, families and communities, according to the White House blog. Murthy will succeed Rear Admiral Boris D. Lushniak, who has been serving as acting surgeon general. The first Surgeon General to serve under President Obama, Regina Benjamin, MD, completed her term in 2013.

The Senate confirmed Murphy’s nomination 51–43. Votes primarily fell along party lines, although one Republican voted for him and three Democrats voted against him. Murthy’s nomination had been opposed by some lawmakers in part because he has publicly supported gun control and because he founded an organization, Doctors for Obama, in 2008; it advocated for Obama’s election and later became the group Doctors for America, which supported the Affordable Care Act.

Murthy will be the first Indian-American to serve as surgeon general.

Photo by Meredith Nierman.