After opposition from mostly Republican lawmakers, the Senate approved Dr. Vivek Murthy as U.S. surgeon general on Monday. With a final tally of 51-43, the year-long confirmation process finally ended, after Murthy's nomination by President Obama back in November 2013.
The 37-year-old doctor is currently a physician at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School. Murthy is both a Harvard and a Yale graduate (who is this magical person??) and a founder of Doctors for America, a national grass-roots organization of some 16,000 doctors and medical students that strongly advocates for Obamacare.
For all his achievements, the GOP resisted his nomination due to what they called his "inexperience" — Murthy completed his medical residency in 2006 — and political views. His support for gun control prompted strong opposition form the National Rifle Association (NRA) — which further proves the NRA's clout in Capitol Hill.
Nevertheless, the British-born, Indian-American doctor, who has both medical and business degrees — he is an MD and an MBA — was endorsed by more than 100 health organizations, including the American College of Physicians, the American Heart Association and the American Diabetes Association, according to USA Today.
In a statement on Murthy's confirmation, President Obama made no mention of gun policies or the doctor's politics in a statement on the confirmation vote. The president said Murthy would bring his "lifetime of experience promoting public health" to the position, adding:
As ‘America’s Doctor,’ Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe... Vivek will also help us build on the progress we’ve made combatting Ebola, both in our country and at its source. Combined with the crucial support for fighting Ebola included in the bill to fund our government next year, Vivek’s confirmation makes us better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home.
In a Senate floor speech, Illinois Democrat Richard Durbin defended Murthy’s credentials and pointed out that gun violence is a public-health issue. He said:
Go to an emergency room on a Friday or Saturday night, and you tell me that gun violence isn’t a public-health issue. Gun violence is a public-health issue. No apology necessary.
Sen. John Barrasso, a Republican politician from Wyoming and an orthopedic surgeon, questioned both Murthy's medical experience and his political leanings. USA Today reported that the senator had said:
The majority of his career has been spent not as a doctor treating patients but as an activist, an activist focused on gun control and political campaigns.
Some Democrats also voted against his appointment. Bloomberg reported Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia saying in a statement:
I don’t believe it’s appropriate for America’s number one doctor to participate in political activism. I don’t question his medical qualifications; I just question whether the public will believe that he can separate his political beliefs from his public health views.
But Murthy has affirmed before that as America's top doctor, he wouldn't use the position for advocating gun control — instead, reported AP, Murthy said his priorities lie in fighting obesity and promoting healthier living in communities.
Images: Vivek Murthy, Twitter/Screenshot