President-elect Obama’s nomination of CNN medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, for the Office of Surgeon General of the United States has ignited a firestorm of debate across the Internet. Some argue that he is not qualified for the position, others say that his charisma would be a boon to public health communications, though the lay majority appear to have mixed feelings.
It is highly irregular for a Surgeon General nominee to be announced before the Secretary of Health and Human Services is confirmed. This faux pas in itself may speak to an irresistible opportunity for self-promotion, or that the Senate confirmation hearing is not the independent review event that we assume it is.
At age 39, Gupta has long aspired to become the Surgeon General, as sources close to him report that he has been saying (since age 33) that “it’s the next logical step in his career development.”
But before we draw conclusions about who’s right for the job, we need to understand what the job entails.
I asked Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General of the United States, to explain the roles and responsibilities of the office. A summary of our conversation follows: