Surgeon General Gupta?

SURGEON GENERAL GUPTA?…. I should concede at the outset that I don’t watch CNN often, but I’ve caught Dr. Sanjay Gupta on occasion, and he strikes me as quite capable in discussing medical issues. With that in mind, Barack Obama could do a lot worse in a surgeon general.

President-elect Barack Obama has offered the job of surgeon general to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the neurosurgeon and correspondent for CNN and CBS, according to two sources with knowledge of the situation.

Gupta has told administration officials that he wants the job, and the final vetting process is under way. He has asked for a few days to figure out the financial and logistical details of moving his family from Atlanta to Washington but is expected to accept the offer. […]

The offer followed a two-hour Chicago meeting in November with Obama, who said that Gupta could be the highest-profile surgeon general in history and would have an expanded role in providing health policy advice, the sources said. Gupta later spoke with Tom Daschle, Obama’s White House health czar and nominee for Health and Human Services secretary, and other advisers to the president-elect.

The Michigan-born son of Indian and Pakistani parents, Gupta has always been drawn to health policy. He was a White House fellow in the late 1990s, writing speeches and crafting policy for Hillary Clinton. His appointment would give the administration a prominent official of Southwest Asian descent and a skilled television spokesman.

When it comes to the politics, a certain 2007 incident regarding Gupta and filmmaker Michael Moore comes to mind, but putting that aside, Gupta seems like a strong choice. The responsibilities for a surgeon general are a little vague, but my sense is he/she is generally responsible for being a public health advocate, educating the public and being a spokesperson on medical and health issues. Given his work as a journalist, Gupta seems more than able to fill that role.

I vaguely recall a time when Surgeon General was a big deal. C. Everett Koop became a prominent national figure in the 1980s, and seemed to take the position from honorary title to leading public health official.

Other than Joycelyn Elders, who gained unwelcome notoriety, the position hasn’t garnered much attention since. Quick: name the last Surgeon General. If you said, “Richard Carmona,” give yourself a prize. If you know that Steven Galson* has been the acting surgeon general, you’re probably either a relative or an employee of Dr. Galson.

Gupta would probably change this quickly, would likely be the highest-profile official since Koop, and could conceivably play a valuable role in advancing a reform campaign. Sounds good to me.

* corrected