US President-elect Joe Biden has nominated Dr Vivek Murthy as his Surgeon General, exuding confidence that the renowned Indian-American physician will be a key public voice in his response to the coronavirus pandemic to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine. Murthy, 43, served as Surgeon General of the United States during the Obama administration and had to leave abruptly when Donald Trump became the US President.
”Dr. Murthy will be one of my most trusted public health and medical advisors, and I’m grateful for his continued public service,” Biden said on Tuesday as he announced Murthy’s nomination. ”A renowned physician and research scientist. A trusted national leader on health care, and for me, a trusted advisor during this campaign and transition. This will be his second time serving as America’s Doctor, having served in this role under President Obama. During his tenure, he took on some of the most pressing public health issues we face from the opioid crisis to threats to America’s mental health,” Biden said.
Biden said he had asked Murthy to serve again as Surgeon General, but with expanded responsibilities. ”He will be a key public voice on our COVID-19 response, to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine. But he will also be a key advisor to me and help lead an all-government approach to broader public health issues mental health, addiction and substance use disorders, social and environmental determinants of health, and so much more,” he said.
”Above all, he will help restore faith in this country as a place of possibilities. A son of Indian immigrants, who raised their children to always believe in the promise of America,” Biden said. Dr Murthy was previously confirmed by the Senate to serve in the same capacity, holding the post as ’America’s Doctor’ between 2014 and 2017.
A trusted national voice on health issues and a long-time advisor to Biden, he currently serves as co-chair of the President-elect’s COVID-19 transition Advisory Board. In his remarks, Murthy said that he will dedicate himself to caring for every American, will be driven always by science and facts, by head and heart and be endlessly grateful to serve one of the few countries in the world where the grandson of a poor farmer in India can be asked by the president-elect to look out for the health of the entire nation.
”That is a testament to the promise of America one that I will work to fulfill every day as Surgeon General,” he said. Murthy said that in this moment of crisis, when so many Americans have fallen sick and lost loved ones, when people are losing jobs and struggling with childcare, he feels grateful to be able to do everything he can to end this pandemic.
”While this is a daunting task, we absolutely have what it takes to get the job done. We have world-class scientists. We have courageous medical professionals who are risking their lives to care for the ill. We have companies on the cusp of delivering vaccines, and we are blessed with generous, compassionate people all across America who are stepping up to help those who are struggling,” he said. ”If we all work together, we will overcome this pandemic and return to our lives, he said, adding that COVID-19 is not the only health crisis the country is facing.
”If anything, it has underscored a host of other epidemics that are devastating families and shortening lifespans: addiction, the opioid crisis, and spiraling mental health concerns; glaring racial disparities and high rates of diabetes and heart disease, he said. These challenges are both caused and exacerbated by broader societal issues from the economic strains families face to the disconnection and loneliness Americans feel, he said.
”In my new, expanded role, I will work to bring a health perspective to our policies across government so that our schools, workplaces, and communities can be forces for strengthening our health and well being,” Murthy said. Murthy was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire to immigrants from Karnataka. In 1978, the family crossed the Atlantic to Newfoundland, where his father worked as a District Medical Officer. When he was three years old, the family relocated to Miami, and his parents established their medical practice.
Eminent Indian-American and Indiaspora founder M Rangaswami said that it was evident through the appointment of Murthy as the Surgeon General that President-elect Biden trusts him implicitly. ”Through the presidential campaign, Vivek advised Biden regularly and frequently, which has led to Vivek being selected for this highly important position,” he said.
”At Indiaspora, we have seen Vivek’s skills first-hand, first when he led our network through an early, prescient briefing about COVID-19, and again when he spoke eloquently about his new book on loneliness. This role is so critical that it demands Cabinet level status,” Rangaswami said.
First Published: IST