Sanjay Gupta, born of Indian and Pakistani parents, has been picked up by the incoming Obama administration as its Surgeon General. The post involves overseeing public health. The nomination is currently undergoing the vetting process.
Surgeon Generals are not usually involved in shaping the policies of an administration, but could be useful as campaigners.
Jacob Goldstein of the Wall Street Journal said: There's a certain logic to picking a TV talking head to be surgeon general, because the surgeon general is largely a talking head. The top doc does oversee the 6,000-member Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, but the real work of the job is traveling around the country, using the job as a bully pulpit to advance a public health agenda.
A CNN reporter since 2001, Sanjay Gupta, 39, is the network's chief medical correspondent providing breaking news, medical reports for "American Morning" and anchoring a weekend program called "House Call with Dr. Sanjay Gupta."
The Michigan-born Gupta, is an assistant professor of neurosurgery at Emory University School of Medicine and serves as a neurosurgeon at Emory University Hospital. He is also associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Health System, one of the largest public hospitals in the country.
Dr. William Sexson, vice president for pediatrics at Grady, said he hoped that Gupta could bring attention to struggling public hospitals that serve many poor people. "The fact that somebody like him chooses to work at a public hospital - that's a thing that is so impressive about Sanjay," Sexson said.
In 2003, Gupta traveled to Iraq to cover the medical aspects of 2003 invasion of Iraq. While in Iraq, Gupta performed emergency surgery on both U.S. soldiers and Iraqi civilians. Gupta was embedded with a Navy medical unit at the time. A Marine named Jesus Vidana suffered a severe head injury and the Marines asked for Gupta's assistance because of his background in neurosurgery. Vidana survived and was sent back to the United States for rehabilitation.
The people of Indian origin in the US are evidently excited, but the reaction from the medical community is, kind of, mixed.
While Sanjay Gupta's communication skills and high profile have come in for praise, both doctors and activists have raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest with drug companies which have sponsored his broadcasts.
He has had run-ins with the likes of George Michael Moore. Nobel laureate Paul Krugman has slammed Sanjay Gupta's choice. He is outraged that Gupta should have accused the noted film-maker of lying, which was not the case at all.
As USA Today covered in 2007, Gupta in a report erroneously accused Moore of saying that Cuba spends $25 per person for health care when in fact Moore had put the price at $251.
Moore also protested that Gupta interviewed Paul Keckley of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions to help "fact check" Sicko, noting that Keckley had given money to GOP politicians and organizations in the past.
Some conservative commentators are also starting to question the Gupta pick, noting that the TV commentator, in reviewing Sen. John McCain's medical records for CBS, said, "there was hardly any mention of his mental health. There was no mention of depression. You know, this is man who had two admittedly weak suicide attempts when he was a prisoner of war. There was no mention of post-traumatic stress disorder or anything that may have been asked, or substance abuse, none of that was even mentioned."
Perhaps the last word is yet to be said on the nomination.