- Nevertheless, with a broader portfolio, the next Surgeon General will be the public face of the fight against the Coronavirus and all matters of national health.
Indian American physician and former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has been tapped by President–elect Joe Biden to reprise the role of Surgeon General but with a broader portfolio, on Friday, Dec 4, 2020, as the country grapples with a surging pandemic. Murthy is reportedly no longer under consideration to lead the Department of Health and Human Services.
The surgeon general serves a four-year term and is the top government official in public health issues. Jerome Dams is the incumbent Surgeon General.
Set to take office during a time when Covid-19 has killed roughly 275,000 Americans and counting, and at a time when the Trump administration has weakened the Affordable Care Act, a law that expanded access to subsidized health insurance for millions, Biden’s healthcare team will be crucial to the success of his presidency.
Murthy, 43, is currently one of the co-chairs of the Covid-19 advisory board of the transition and has been a close associate of President-elect Biden on coronavirus issues. Murthy was one of the public health experts who briefed Biden frequently about the pandemic during the campaign.
Politico reported that Murthy will return to that role, with a broader portfolio that will also include acting as the top medical expert and public face on matters of health.
Congratulations on this appointment have poured in. Indiaspora, a leading network of Indian leaders in the community, took to Twitter to congratulate Murthy. “Congrats to dear friend, @vivek_murthy, who will serve as U.S. Surgeon General in the Biden administration, with a portfolio that also includes serving as the top medical expert and public face of the administration’s response to the coronavirus,” its tweet read.
Another netizen Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, a Texas native and doctor at a Federally Qualified Health Centre (FQHC) tweeted, “President-elect Biden made an excellent and inspired choice elevating @vivek_murthy to be our next Surgeon General. Our nation is in need of calm, rational, science-driven leadership – I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
A public health advocate who likes to link healthcare with affordability for the poor, Murthy launched his first NGO at age 17 and his public health influence can be traced back to his childhood.
Murthy and his older sister, Rashmi, were born in the United Kingdom to parents who hailed from Karnataka in India. The family moved to Newfoundland when Murthy was one year old and subsequently moved to Miami. His father was a physician and ran a family practice in which his mother also practiced.
Talking about his childhood to The Citizen, Murthy said, “One of the things that appealed to me about doctoring when I was in grade school was the idea that you could approach people with a desire to heal, but in a manner that was informed by both science and humanity…I saw how much time he and my mother invested in nurturing relationships with the patients they cared for…because they wanted to understand what was going on in their life.”
Murthy was appointed America’s 19th Surgeon General by former president Barack Obama in 2014 and was the youngest ever to hold the office at the age of 37.
According to The Washington Post, his previous nomination was held up in the Senate for just over a year, largely because of opposition from the National Rifle Association, and because of his view that gun violence poses a public health threat, until his confirmation in December 2014.
Ultimately, Murthy completed only a little more than half of his four-year term as surgeon general before President Donald Trump asked him to resign shortly after he took office in 2017.
According to Business Insider the soft-spoken Murthy has tangled with political controversies over the past decade — including with the nation’s most powerful gun lobby — that could come back to haunt him.
Murthy also irked Republicans and red-state Democrats in 2012 when he tweeted that “guns are a health care issue” and in 2013 after Doctors for America proposed a list of gun-control policies to Congress.
Murthy currently serves as board chair at the Centers for Science in the Public Interest.
During his tenure, he issued a landmark report on drug and alcohol addiction, calling it “a moral test for America” and placing it among reports his predecessors had produced to draw attention to other major public health threats, such as tobacco use, AIDS, the need for physical activity.
He issued the first surgeon general’s report on addiction, at a time when opioid overdoses had become a national crisis.
Murthy, who has described himself as the “grandson of a poor farmer from India,” founded the group Doctors for Obama in 2008 to help elect Barack Obama to the White House.
After Obama’s win, Doctors for Obama rebranded as Doctors for America and worked closely with the influential Democratic-aligned group Center for American Progress to push for the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
Co-founder and president of Doctors for America, Dr. Murthy was a hospitalist attending physician and instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School, a position he has held since 2006.
In 2011, Murthy was appointed to serve as a Member of the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.
Murthy has been the co-founder and Chairman of the Board of TrialNetworks, formerly known as Epernicus, since 2007. He also co-founded VISIONS Worldwide in 1995, a non-profit organization focused on HIV/AIDS education in India and the United States, where he served as president from 1995 to 2000 and Chairman of the Board from 2000 to 2003.
He was a Vice Admiral in the U.S .Public Health Service’s commissioned corps and is trained in internal medicine.
Murthy attended college at Harvard University and graduated in 1997 with a Bachelor of Arts in biochemical sciences. He earned an MD degree from Yale School of Medicine and an MBA from Yale School of Management.
Since leaving the government, he has written and spoken out about loneliness. Recently, Murthy launched a book called “Together” (2020) at a time when the U.S. was reeling from the impact of Covid-19 and social distancing and isolation. The book offered some poignant lessons about relationships and a people-centered society and the healing powers of human connections.
Anu Ghosh immigrated to the U.S. from India in 1999. Back in India she was a journalist for the Times of India in Pune for 8 years and a graduate from the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication. In the U.S., she obtained her Masters and PhD. in Communications from The Ohio State University. Go Buckeyes! She has been involved in education for the last 15 years, as a professor at Oglethorpe University and then Georgia State University. She currently teaches Special Education at Oak Grove Elementary. She is also a mom to two precocious girls ages 11 and 6.