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Barbara M.
Democrat MD

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  • Nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy

    by Senator Barbara A. Mikulski

    Posted on 2014-12-12

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    MIKULSKI. Madam President, I urge the Senate to schedule an immediate vote on the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as the next Surgeon General of the United States. One year ago, President Obama nominated Dr. Murthy to serve as our next Surgeon General. Ten months ago, Dr. Murthy's nomination was approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, HELP, Committee. Since then, his nomination has stalled. I, along with many of my colleagues, have written to Senate leadership, requesting an immediate floor vote. Yet-- here we are--still no vote.

    The Surgeon General serves as ``America's Doctor.'' He ensures Americans are receiving the very best scientific information available in order to improve their health and reduce risk of injury or illness. The Surgeon General also oversees the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a group of 7,000 men and women who are uniformed public health professionals working throughout the federal government to protect, promote, and advance our Nation's health. Finally, the Surgeon General is responsible for chairing the National Prevention Council.

    The urgent need to have a Surgeon General in place and at-the-ready is never more evident than when we are confronted with a public health crisis, as we are now. Over the past many months, our global community has struggled to respond to the Ebola epidemic plaguing West Africa and threatening communities nationwide. The United States has been rightly focused on dealing with the epidemic at its epicenter in West Africa, protecting our ports of entry, and protecting America's public health. Yet, our response has been hindered because we do not have a confirmed U.S. Surgeon General in place.

    Households across our nation were flooded with misinformation and confusion when Ebola was first diagnosed in the United States. If Dr. Murthy had been in place as Surgeon General, he would have been responsible for increasing public understanding about Ebola; providing accurate, important, and timely medical information; and helping to ease fears. As ``America's Doctor'' he would have provided an additional trusted voice that could have communicated with the public and helped address their concerns. Instead, ``America's Doctor'' was sitting on the sidelines awaiting a Senate vote on his nomination.

    Like so many of us, Dr. Murthy is the son of immigrant parents. He completed his early education in Miami, FL, and attended college at Harvard University where he received a bachelor's degree in biochemical sciences. He went on to receive an MD from the Yale School of Medicine and an MBA in Health Care Management from the Yale School of Management. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at Brigham and Woman's Hospital.

    As a physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dr. Murthy has cared for patients with a range of illnesses from diabetes and cardiovascular disease to cancer and infections. As a researcher, he has worked on vaccine development and he has studied the inclusion of women and minorities in clinical trials. As a teacher at Harvard Medical School, he knows what issues face our next generation of doctors. As a public health educator, Dr. Murthy created HIV/AIDS education programs for thousands of young people through an organization he cofounded. He built a rural community health partnership in India to train young women to be health care educators and leaders. As an organizational leader, Dr. Murthy cofounded a national medical organization, Doctors for America, to improve communication between physicians, patients, and policy makers. Finally, as a leader in prevention, he served on the Advisory Group to the National Prevention Council and helped develop the nation's first National Prevention Strategy. I think it is pretty clear that Dr. Murthy has the background and the boots on the ground expertise to serve as our Nation's 19th Surgeon General.

    Doubts about his ability to serve as Surgeon General are not the problem holding up his nomination. I fear that policy matters outside the scope of this position are actually to blame. I hope that my colleagues do not let public policy debates unrelated to the position in which he would serve stall his nomination any longer.

    Dr. Murthy's nomination has received widespread support from local, State, and national public health organizations including the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, and American Public Health Association.

    It is time to confirm Dr. Murthy as our Nation's 19th Surgeon General. It is time to take ``America's Doctor'' off the sidelines and put him into the game. Thank you.

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