Washington DC: President Barack Obama’s pick for surgeon general, Indian American Vivek Hallegere Murthy, is one step closer to becoming “America’s doctor”, with a Senate panel approving his nomination despite opposition from the powerful gun lobby.
Democratic controlled Senate is set to hold a vote Tuesday to confirm Murthy, 36, an early supporter of Obama and his healthcare law. He would be the first Indian American and the youngest person to become the leading spokesperson on matters of public health in the US.
As US surgeon general, Murthy will also be the operational head of the 6,500-strong US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, one of the seven uniformed services including army, navy, air force and marines.
A graduate of Yale University, Murthy’s resume includes founding two other organizations: Visions Worldwide, a nonprofit group dedicated to HIV and AIDS education, and TrialNetworks, a software company focused on making drug development and clinical trials more efficient.
During his testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labour, and Pensions (HELP) committee in February “Murthy demonstrated that he is an excellent choice to serve as the next US Surgeon General”, said the panel’s Democratic Chairman Senator Tom Harkin.
“The Surgeon General is uniquely positioned to develop and implement strategies to promote health and wellness and to drive disease prevention strategies in our nation,” he said in a statement.
“Dr. Murthy’s extraordinary medical and public health accomplishments show that he is well-qualified to continue that mission and I am confident that Dr. Murthy will help to greatly improve the health of Americans today and long into the future,” Harkin added.
However, the top Republican on the panel Senator Lamar Alexander voted against Murthy in the panel.
“Dr. Murthy is obviously talented, but his experience does not measure up to the stature and leadership expected of our surgeons general,” he said.
The powerful gun lobby, meanwhile, has threatened to block Murthy’s appointment because of the Indian-American’s “activist” stand on gun
“The Surgeon General has the important tasks of providing the American public with information to better inform decisions related to their health and directing much of the federal government’s public health efforts,” the National Rifle Association said in a letter to the Senate leadership.
“In order for these roles to be carried out effectively, the public must trust that the Surgeon General’s actions are based on empirical and scientific evidence, rather than political or ideological motives,” it said in a letter to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican leader Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“In this regard, Murthy’s record of political activism in support of radical gun control measures raises significant concerns about his ability to objectively examine issues pertinent to America’s 100 million firearm owners and the likelihood he would use the office of Surgeon General to further his preexisting campaign against gun ownership,” it said.