Thursday, March 5, 2009

Surgeon General



So apparently Dr. Sanjay Gupta has dropped out of the running to be President Obama's Surgeon General. I don't know whether to be sad or disappointed or excited or apoplectic or sanguine. (Actually I think I'll go with completely apathetic.) He's either the worst candidate imaginable or the perfect candidate for our times. He's young and well-spoken and has those perfect gleaming white teeth and the immovable movie star black hair and he's all over CNN corresponding and whatnot about various health matters, and wouldn't he just be the perfect guy to be the nation's official spokesperson on public health in this age of the Celebrity? Or not. Isn't the Surgeon General usually some grizzled old retired doc with a beard or variation of beard (Van Dyke or goatee or at least a wispy little stache), the kind who whacks your patella with one of those rubber hammers even if you just need a Cipro script for your sinusitis, and you're always just a little afraid when he ambles into your exam room in the starched white coat smelling of iodine and camphor with the glasses perched precariously on the bridge of his nose? Can't we get one of those guys again? Well, wait a second; that's old fashioned, stereotypical, and faintly misogynistic. Maybe it's time for someone with a little more media savvy, someone who knows his way around a powder room, who knows the exact concentration of hydrogen peroxide it takes to tranform your teeth from a row of dull yellow autumn corn kernels hanging down from your gums into the sparkling luminescent orbs of pure white delight, evidently the current standard for anyone who spends any amount of time in front of a camera these days (local on-location weather reporters included).

Here's what the Surgeon General does:
"As head of the 6,000-member Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, the surgeon general acts as the government's chief spokesperson to educate the public on health issues, but has little direct role in policy-making."

That seems pretty....lame. You mean you're not like the "General of all the Surgeons" in some militaristic hierarchy? This is just a PR gig? Why not hire Mary Hart for the job? Or Scarlett Johansson? Don't you think the stop smoking campaign would have made a lot more headway in the eighties if Brooke Shields had been Surgeon General rather than that wily old C. Everette Koop? I'm not exactly surprised Doc Gupta turned this dealio down. Let's remember, between telling us on CNN about the unsubstantiated benefits of asparagus with regards to toenail cancer and how the weather can affect our health, the guy is in fact a practicing NEUROSURGEON. Which is nice.

So the bottom line on this breaking news: somewhere between who cares and the "oh really?" you get from your wife when you try to tell her about your favorite college football team's latest recruiting class.

7 comments:

MissFifi said...

I think I feel as you do. Surgeon General should have more clout and pull then just being someone who repeats somebody else's rhetoric. Big sigh from me as it seems the government will never learn and we will just continue to have the wrong people in high up public health positions.

Frank Drackman said...

Takes a special Doc to wear that Sergeant Pepper Suit...

Anonymous said...

He couldn't stomach knocking a zero off of the salary.

I nominate Atul Gawande

nemsova said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nemsova said...

ditto atul gawande

or paul farmer

halfmd said...

The SG is technically a three-star admiral in the Navy. In a sense, he is a general, although Dr. Koop was the last SG to ever wear a military uniform.

John J. Coupal said...

As a boy, I went to a GP who is just like ones you described, wearing the starched coat smelling of iodine and camphor (with a little phenol thrown in for good measure). Why did I trust his medical knowledge more than I do from the docs I run into in 2009?

Gupta suffers from the way-too- much-style over way-too-little- substance syndrome. He should become medical advisor on the Oprah show.

Someone who can attach emotionally with the American people for health education is what's needed for SG. Most of the recent SGs have been political toadies; we already have more than enough of those in the present bureaucracy!