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Don’t play politics with ‘America’s doctor’

As “America’s doctor,” the Surgeon General of the United States is our country’s leading spokesperson on matters of public health. 

To oversee the newly formed National Prevention Council and the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, our next Surgeon General must possess the character and organizational traits to be able to hold the health of our country foremost, ensure that science drives our public health conversation, and communicate effectively and with passion to all Americans. Many of America’s medical and public health organizations believe Surgeon General candidate Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has been nominated by President Obama for the post, embodies these traits, and more, but his nomination has not yet been considered by the Senate. 

{mosads}As communities, physicians, hospitals, public health and government officials scramble to contain a vicious outbreak of Enterovirus D68 and the fear of an Ebola epidemic, now is not the time for the office of the Surgeon General of the United States to be empty. 

The American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians, American College of Physicians, American Osteopathic Association, American Psychiatric Association, Society of General Internal Medicine and many more have overwhelmingly endorsed Dr. Murthy’s nomination as our next Surgeon General. We strongly support his commitment to the four important unifying public health issues he identified in his public Senate confirmation committee testimony: prevention, obesity, tobacco cessation, and mental health. 

Murthy’s background in prevention includes more than 20 years working to improve the health of communities across the country. He serves on the President’s National Advisory Group for Prevention that created the United States’ first National Prevention Strategy, which addresses tobacco-free living, preventing drug abuse and excessive alcohol use, healthy eating, active living, injury- and violence-free living, reproductive and sexual health, and mental and emotional well-being. 

He also conceived and implemented initiatives to educate more than 45,000 youth about HIV prevention in the United States and India, and created rural community health partnerships to train local Indian women as basic health providers and educators. 

As a practicing physician, Murthy brings extensive clinical expertise caring for patients and training hundreds of medical residents at one of the nation’s top academic medical facilities, Brigham and Women’s Hospital. 

As a medical researcher, he has conducted and published peer-reviewed studies on vaccine development and the importance of enrolling women and minorities in clinical trials so their specific needs are addressed appropriately. And looking to the future, he created a successful technology company that streamlines clinical trials so the American public has access to safe, new medications much more quickly than they have in the past. 

Murthy demonstrates a clear and thoughtful understanding of how important it is to transform our health care system from one focused on sick care to one based on wellness and early intervention. Unfortunately, some are trying to make his nomination about divisive, political issues – painting him in a light that is entirely at odds with the person who enjoys the support of a broad swath of the medical and public health community. 

We are in an unprecedented time of change and opportunity for our nation’s health system. This is no time for politics to overshadow the important work that lies ahead for our country. Let us rise above our minor differences and recognize that Dr. Vivek Murthy has the experience, vision, and passion to be our next Surgeon General.

Wergin, MD, FAAFP, is president of the American Academy of Family Physicians; Perrin, MD, FAAP, is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics; Jennings, MD, is president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists; Henwood, DO, is president of the American College of Osteopathic Family Physicians; Fleming, MD is president of the American College of Physicians; Juhasz, DO, is president of the American Osteopathic Association; Summergrad, MD, is president of the American Psychiatric Association; and Moran, MD, MS, is president of the Society of General Internal Medicine.


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