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Observations Yankee Doodling

What should the US surgeon general do?

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: (Published 13 January 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b122
  1. Douglas Kamerow, chief scientist, RTI International, and associate editor, BMJ
  1. dkamerow{at}

    The man tipped to be US surgeon general is a television star—but the problem lies elsewhere

    As I write this, it is being widely reported that the neurosurgeon Sanjay Gupta, who is also a medical correspondent for the US television networks CNN and CBS, is the leading candidate to be appointed surgeon general by the president elect, Barack Obama. I have nothing against Dr Gupta, who I’m sure is a fine neurosurgeon, specialising (according to his biography) in “complicated spine, trauma and 3-D image-guided operations.” And he is a skilful television medical correspondent. But his potential appointment raises two important issues about the role of what everyone calls the “surgeon general of the United States.”

    The first is that the surgeon general is actually statutorily only the surgeon general of the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service. The corps comprises more than 6000 uniformed officers who work in public health positions throughout the federal government and on assignment in public health agencies around the nation and the world. It is not clear what …

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