News reports confirm that President-Elect Obama has tapped CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta for the post of Surgeon General of the United States. Gupta is undergoing final vetting and is expected to accept the position.
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.
Gupta is expected to have an expanded role in health policy and possibly in health care reform. This may be good for women’s health and rights. Gupta has, for example, sharply criticized the regulations published by the Department of Health and Human Services (extensively covered by RH Reality Check) that allow providers to deny reproductive and sexual health services to women based on a loose definition of "conscience."
Discussing the regulations on CNN in December, for example, Gupta stated:
[I]t’s a bit of a slippery slope. I
mean, when you say, I’m not going to provide care based on my own
conscience…you can imagine that opens up a whole wide range of
possibilities, in terms of what is going to be treated and what is not.
Gupta, a medical doctor aware of the economic and social benefits of primary preventive health care, and an ability to reach broad audiences, may prove to be just the right partner for Senator Tom Daschle, incoming Secretary of HHS. Let’s hope they work together to heal a broken health care system.