BOSTON A Brigham and Women’s physician will become the next U.S. surgeon general.
Democrats squeaked out a 51-43 vote Monday to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy, 37, in the waning days of their control over the U.S. Senate.
Murthy’s nomination stalled earlier this year when the National Rifle Association raised objection to Murthy’s characterization of guns as a health issue. Murthy said he would focus on childhood obesity, not guns, if approved as the nation’s top doctor. Many public health leaders and physicians fumed about the NRA’s influence, but the White House did not press for a vote and many of Murthy’s supporters assumed the nomination was dead.
Then on Saturday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, using a procedural move, put Murthy’s nomination back in play. And on Monday he was approved by a single vote majority a year after being nominated and 17 months after the position was vacated.
“I can think of no one better suited for this important role and truly believe that we will be a stronger and healthier nation under his leadership,” Brigham and Women’s President Betsy Nabel said. “[Dr. Murthy] is a passionate advocate for improving access to quality health care and is driven by innate desire to help people all over the world achieve and maintain good health.”
Some senators say Murthy’s medical authority will be undermined because he’ll be seen as a political activist.
“The majority of his career has been spent not as a doctor treating patients but as an activist, an activist focused on gun control and political campaigns,” Republican Sen. John Barrasso, of Wyoming, said earlier Monday.
Murthy will become the nation’s top doctor as the U.S. responds to Ebola here and abroad, as Americans fight the flu and as Murthy’s priority, childhood obesity, threatens, in his words, “the next generation.” He will be the first Indian-American surgeon general.
Murthy is graduate of Harvard and Yale. He started two organizations: Visions Worldwide, which works on AIDS education in India, and Doctors for America, a pro-Obama physician group.