Obama, Lawmakers, Indian Americans Hail Next Surgeon General Murthy

Vivek Murthy to become the next US Surgeon General - here with Durga & Krishna Sreenivasan, twins of Sree Sreenivasan and Roopa Unnikrishnan

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Washington, DC – There was a sigh of relief followed by celebrations among the Indian American community as after more than a year of waiting, the US Senate with a narrow vote of 51-43 on Monday night confirmed Vivek Murthy to become the next US Surgeon General.

Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk was the only Republican to vote for Murthy, amid opposition by his party colleagues who argued the physician has politicized biased views considering his role at Doctors for Obama and his support of gun control. On the other hand, Murthy was rejected by three Democrats: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

With his confirmation, the 37-year-old Murthy became the youngest-ever US Surgeon General and got an immediate congratulatory note from President Barack Obama, who had nominated him in November 2013.

“As America’s Doctor, Vivek will hit the ground running to make sure every American has the information they need to keep themselves and their families safe.” said President Obama in a statement, applauding the Senate for confirming, “Vivek Murthy to be our country’s next Surgeon General.”

“He’ll bring his lifetime of experience promoting public health to bear on priorities ranging from stopping new diseases to helping our kids grow up healthy and strong,” noted Obama.

Obama expressed hope that Murthy would also, “help us build on the progress we’ve made combating Ebola, both in our country and at its source.” He concluded, “Combined with the crucial support for fighting Ebola included in the bill to fund our government next year, Vivek’s confirmation makes us better positioned to save lives around the world and protect the American people here at home.”

Congressman Ami Bera, a physician himself and the only Indian American currently serving in Congress commended confirmation of Murthy as US Surgeon General saying, “I’m thrilled the Senate has confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy as our next surgeon general. As a practicing physician and instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a champion of innovation in medicine, and a leader in the medical community, Dr. Murthy is an excellent choice for this role and his appointment is historic for the Indian American community.”

“As a doctor myself, I also know that the American people will benefit from having a trusted physician leader to help them navigate the complex medical issues we face today,” noted Bera.

Rep. Joe Crowley, Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus and Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on India and Indian-Americans, in a statement congratulated Murthy on his confirmation, “as our nation’s next surgeon general.”

Crowley, a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee said, “I’m glad that this nomination didn’t fall victim to partisan bickering and pressure from special interests, but this is more than a political victory. The confirmation of the first surgeon general of Indian descent is a victory for the entire Indian-American community, whose young children will grow up knowing that anything is within their reach.”

Murthy was born to a Kannada speaking family; his parents are originally from Karnataka, a South Central state in India. He was born in Huddersfield, England, but his family relocated to Miami, Florida when he was three years old. Indian American community hailed the confirmation as prominent medical professionals, social workers and doyens of social media poured their congratulatory notes.

“So delighted that Dr. Vivek Murthy has been confirmed by the Senate as Surgeon General of the United States. This is a big moment for Indian Americans – and ALL AMERICANS, said Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Founder at SreeTips and Co-founder at South Asian Journalists Association (SAJA).

Noting that his nomination was held up for petty political reasons by the gun lobby and the NRA for more than a year, Sreenivasan said, “He never showed his frustration despite all the terrible things said about him and the delay itself. He has a wonderful smile (the only thing infectious about him) and is cool, calm and collected – exactly what you’d want in your personal doctor and the country’s Doctor-in-Chief.”

In a statement to India America Today, Ravi Batra, the head of a boutique law firm in Manhattan and Chairman of National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs said, “Dr. Vivek Murthy, a real life Doogie Howzer, must honor our Constitution even as he protects the public health. His 51-43 confirmation vote, after a double-gestation wait since his confirmation hearing, is ample cause to become America’s best Surgeon General.”

“That he is an Indian-American doctor, while ethnically satisfying to some, is really irrelevant except for one issue: proof positive of America’s merit-based generous soul that is at its core color-blind even as everyone’s blood is red,” noted Batra. “Vivek will be judged not for his tan, height or plentiful hair – but can he make America healthier and drive down systemic health care costs driven by bad behavior and bad food; as health care costs are crippling our economy and we need to get in shape to compete with the three mandate-rich countries: China, India and now Japan,” asked Batra.

Congratulating Murthy on his historic appointment, Dr. Suresh K. Gupta, Vice Chairman, Maryland State Board of Physicians said, “65,000 plus Indian American Physicians (AAPI) and 35,000 plus Medical Students, Residents & Fellows (MSRF) are sending their Heartiest Congratulations Dr. Murthy. You truly are an inspiration and a role model of an American Dream and we all are proud of your achievement.”

Congratulating Murthy on the confirmation, Rajan Zed, Chairperson of Indo-American Leadership Confederation stated: “We believe that he will continue with his dedication to improve the health and well being of all Americans, making a positive impact.”

Mayur Mody of Maryland, who is known for his tireless efforts to organize free health camps at different religious centers, noted, “Dr. Vivek Murthy is a talented and a qualified with a substantial experience as a doctor and a innovative thinker who has promising career ahead of him,” and wished him all the best in his role as the next Surgeon General.

Murthy was nominated by President Obama last year but his nomination had been resisted in the Senate by both Democrats and Republicans because of his lack of experience. The most opposition came from the powerful gun lobby National Rifle Association (NRA) regarding previous comments Murthy made citing gun violence as a threat to public health. However, Murthy said in his confirmation hearings he would not use the office of Surgeon General as a bully pulpit for gun control.

Murthy’s nomination received broad support from over 100 medical and public health organizations in the US, including the American College of Physicians, the American Public Health Association, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the American Diabetes Association. He also received the endorsements of two former Surgeons General, Dr. David Satcher and Dr. Regina Benjamin.

Following his confirmation, Murthy was automatically commissioned as a Vice Admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, of which the Surgeon General is the day to day head.

Murthy created and served as President and then Chairman of VISIONS, a non-profit organization focused on HIV/AIDS education in the US and India. During his 8 year tenure as head of the organization, VISIONS established 10 chapters with hundreds of volunteers in both countries and impacted over 45,000 youth through direct education programs.

The Surgeon General, whose history goes back to 1871, is nominated by US President with advise and consent of the US Senate for a four-year term of office.

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