President Obama’s pick to become the next U.S. Surgeon General might have to explain his credentials a bit. Half of the doctors who work in his specialty at his own hospital finished residency before him.
Dr. Vivek Murthy, 36, was nominated by President Obama for the Surgeon General post last November, but Democrats are backing off from his nomination reportedly due to his well-documented anti-gun advocacy. But his relative lack of medical experience might also come up in a confirmation hearing.
Murthy is listed as a Hospitalist and Hospitalist Service specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, having completed his residency in internal medicine there in 2006. Of the 42 listed Hospitalist Service specialists at Brigham and Women’s, 21 doctors finished residency before Murthy.
Three fellow specialists finished residency at Brigham and Women’s the same year as Murthy and two of them are also Harvard Medical School instructors like Murthy. Additionally, eleven doctors in the specialty, formed at the hospital in 1998, have completed fellowships, which Murthy has not. The most experienced Hospitalist Service specialist at the hospital finished his residency in 1975, before Murthy was born.
Murthy is a staunch left-wing activist who would bring a record of political advocacy to the role currently held on an acting basis by Boris Lushniak.
As president and co-founder of the activist group Doctors for America, spun off from the 2008 group Doctors for Obama, Murthy was one of the leading activists countering anti-Obamacare medical associations during the push to pass the health care reform law.
Murthy’s group even organized a doctor photo op on the White House lawn at a 2009 event in conjunction with the pro-Obama advocacy group Organizing for America, which was later rebranded Organizing for Action. Murthy also served in an official capacity on the Obama Health Policy Advisory Committee for Obama’s 2008 campaign, and canvassed in Florida during the 2012 election.
Murthy’s anti-gun activism included tweeting last December, “NRA press conference disappointing but predictable – blame everything in the world except guns for the Newtown tragedy.” Murthy felt no need to weigh in on the mental health issues surrounding the case, which evidently fall under the umbrella of “everything in the world.”
At least eight to ten Democrats oppose Murthy’s confirmation in this midterm election year and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin said “It would be problematic if [the confirmation vote] came up quickly.”
White House press secretary Jay Carney recently said that “after the confirmation vote of Debo Adegbile, we are recalibrating the strategy around Dr. Murthy’s floor vote,” referring to the administration’s DOJ civil rights nominee who failed to be confirmed due to his legal representation of cop killer Mumia Abu-Jamal.
The controversy has made Murthy a cause celebre in the mainstream media, with outlets decrying a pressure campaign by the National Rifle Association (NRA) to drum up anti-Murthy sentiment on Capitol Hill. The campaign “Stand with Vivek” rails against “special interests” that are supposedly blocking Murthy’s Senate confirmation.
Murthy’s left-wing activism is not confined merely to gun control or, for that matter, his criticism of capital punishment, praise for blogger Ezra Klein, or assertion that “POTUS is looking sharp tonight” while watching a presidential debate.
Murthy promoted a photograph of “social media guru” Judd Legum, who held a workshop, in Murthy’s words, “teaching doctors to use twitter for advocacy” at Doctors for America’s April 2013 national conference. Legum is the editor-in-chief of the faux journalism outlet ThinkProgress, overseen by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, which was accused by former writers of coordinating closely with the White House in its editorial decision-making. Murthy appears to approve of Legum’s strategy to influence mainstream media coverage.
“Figure out the issues you care about and connect them to issues people are already talking about,” Legum told doctors from Murthy’s group in his “Social Media 101” seminar at the conference. The tweet quoting Legum was retweeted just once: by Vivek Murthy.
It remains unclear whether Democrats care about Vivek Murthy’s nomination to become Surgeon General of the United States. But if he comes up for a confirmation vote, it will be an issue people will be talking about.