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Patrick L.
Democrat VT

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  • Nomination of Vivek Hallegere Murthy to Be Medical Director in the Regular Corps of the Public Health Service, Subject to Qualifications Therefor as Provided By Law and Regulations, and to Be…

    by Senator Patrick J. Leahy

    Posted on 2014-12-15

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    Read More about Nomination of Vivek Hallegere Murthy to Be Medical Director in the Regular Corps of the Public Health Service, Subject to Qualifications Therefor as Provided By Law and Regulations, and to Be...

    LEAHY. Mr. President, it has been 10 months since the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions favorably reported the nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy to serve as Surgeon General of the United States. While this seat sat vacant, our Nation has suffered through concerns and divergent information about the possibility of an Ebola outbreak and is on the cusp of what is predicted to be a difficult flu season. It is past time to move forward and confirm this nomination.

    The Surgeon General is the Nation's chief medical officer and plays the role of chief medical information ``explainer'' for all Americans. There is a vast amount of information available about how to best take care of your health and the health of your family. The Surgeon General has the authority to distill the best research to present a clear message on effective disease prevention and health promotion. As the health policy advisor to the President and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Surgeon General plays an important role in proactively [[Page S6850]] addressing the many public health issues that face Americans. With an aging population and chronic diseases such as diabetes on the rise, this is a key position in the effort to improve the overall health and wellbeing of the American people.

    Unfortunately, this nomination has been stalled for months due to comments Dr. Murthy made in the context of the school shootings in Newtown, CT. Dr. Murthy referred to gun violence as an ``important public health issue'' but also acknowledges that the causes of gun violence are ``complex and multi-faceted.'' He urges Congress ``to develop a comprehensive national plan to stop gun violence.'' While there is significant disagreement over firearm regulations in our country, we should all be able to agree that reducing gun violence, and the devastating effects it can have on our communities, is a priority. Many doctors' groups treat gun violence as a public health concern and believe it is a relevant and important issue to discuss with patients. Dr. Murthy testified in his confirmation hearing before the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that he does ``not intend to use the Surgeon General's Office as a bully pulpit for gun control. That is not going to be my priority.'' Dr. Murthy further explained that his ``concerns with regards to issues like gun violence have to do with my experience as a physician, seeing patients in emergency rooms who have come in with acute injuries; but also seeing many patients over the years who are dealing with spinal cord injuries, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other chronic complications from gun violence.'' I am a gun owner myself, and I and have enormous respect and appreciation for the freedoms the Second Amendment protects. However, I do not believe that gun violence, and the injuries and fatalities that result from it, is a problem we can simply ignore. On average, more than 100,000 people are shot every year in the United States. From 2000 to 2010, more than 335,000 people were killed by guns in the United States. This is an issue about which we must be able to have an honest discussion.

    Dr. Murthy's impressive background as both a hospitalist attending physician and instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital at Harvard Medical School, and his background as the founder and president of Doctors for America make him well qualified to serve as our Nation's Surgeon General. I hope his nomination is confirmed today.

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