The Washington Post reported today that Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical correspondent, is being considered for the office of Surgeon General by President-elect Obama. This came as quite a shock to me, as I’ve met and interviewed 3 of the recent Surgeons General over the past few years. Of course, I like Sanjay Gupta as a reporter. He’s a fine communicator and does a good job covering subjects for a consumer audience. But I don’t think he has the gravitas or appropriate experience for the role of Surgeon General of the United States.
I spoke with one source close to the nomination proceedings, and he said that most senior people were secretly disappointed with the choice. My source requested that I not reveal his name.
If Sanjay Gupta is confirmed as Surgeon General he will achieve the immediate rank of admiral, even though he has no previous military or public health experience whatsoever. It will be difficult for Gupta to be taken seriously by peers at the Pentagon and State Department. The office of Surgeon General is a very important position given only to the most senior and experienced medical professionals with decades of achievements in their fields. Gupta is a good reporter, he should consider a role in public relations for the U.S. government, not the office of Surgeon General.
When the Bush administration chose an inexperienced person, Mike Brown, to head FEMA – it was a disaster. I hope that the Obama administration doesn’t make a similar mistake with Gupta. However, a nomination is not a confirmation – Gupta still has to be approved by Senator Kennedy’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee before taking the office of Surgeon General. Unfortunately, it’s possible that the committee will feel pressured to confirm Gupta to maintain a good relationship with the new administration, rather than to vote their conscience. But I can tell you that many people are not pleased with this nomination, and feel that there are more appropriate choices that are being overlooked.
It will be interesting to see how far this nomination goes, and if there will be an outcry from the military and medical community over Sanjay Gupta’s apparent nomination. What do you think?