Monday, January 12, 2009

Should a TV Doctor Be Surgeon General?

The news that the television doctor and neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta is being considered for the post of U.S. surgeon general has prompted a mixed reaction on health and science blogs and other sites. Here’s a sampling: The doctor blogger calls it a “bold pick” but asks whether “this a case of style over substance.”
THDblog: The Technology, Health and Development blog says, “Public health needs a rock star.”
Terra Sigillata: Science blogger Abel notes that “literally millions of Americans already trust him for health care information,” adding that “Gupta has also been on-site for several of the most challenging medical emergencies the U.S. has faced in recent years, most significantly the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.” But fellow blogger Jake at Pure Pedantry says Dr. Gupta has waffled on issues like vaccines and autism under the guise of journalistic fairness — something he can’t do as surgeon general.
Center for Science in the Public Interest: Director Michael Jacobson says: “It has been a long time since we’ve had a surgeon general who had a major national impact, such as Dr. C. Everett Koop, who took on the tobacco industry. Certainly no one could accuse any surgeon general in the last eight years of tackling tough health problems.” Dr. Val says, “I don’t think he has the gravitas or appropriate experience for the role of Surgeon General of the United States.” She cites an unidentified source close to the nomination proceedings who says, “It will be difficult for Gupta to be taken seriously by peers at the Pentagon and State Department.” The gossip site points out that Dr. Gupta was voted one of People Magazine’s Sexiest Men Alive in 2003. “Obviously Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman, is the big loser here,” says Gawker.
According to Dr. Gupta’s bio provided by CNN, he regularly performs surgery at Emory University Hospital and Grady Memorial Hospital, where he serves as associate chief of neurosurgery. Before joining CNN, Gupta was a fellow in neurosurgery at the University of Tennessee’s Semmes-Murphy clinic, and before that, the University of Michigan Medical Center. In 1997, he was chosen as a White House Fellow — one of only 15 fellows appointed.

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