Senate Confirms Vivek Murthy as Surgeon General

[Content Note: Guns; fat hatred; disablism.]

Despite strong opposition from the National Rifle Association, because he has the unmitigated temerity to believe that guns are a healthcare issue, the Senate confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy as the US Surgeon General yesterday.
Murthy will be the country's first Indian-American surgeon general, serving as the United States' chief spokesman on matters of public health. He'll be the first Senate-confirmed surgeon general since the position was vacated on July 2013, replacing Acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak.

"I applaud the Senate for confirming Vivek Murthy to be our country's next Surgeon General," Obama said in a statement. "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. 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. Vivek will also help us build on the progress we've made combating Ebola, both in our country and at its source."

...Born in England and raised in the Florida, Murthy has an MD and MBA from Yale. He has worked as a physician-instructor at Harvard Medical School, created the anti-HIV/AIDS nonprofit organization VISIONS and co-founded Doctors For America (originally Doctors For Obama) in 2008. He's supported by more than 100 medical and public health groups.

Leading the opposition to Murthy was Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who is next in line to chair the Senate health committee. "Unfortunately," he said, citing the nominee's advocacy for Obama and his remarks on guns and health, "Dr. Murthy's experience does not demonstrate the leadership and knowledge of public health that we expect from our surgeons general."
Well, Senator, I can guarantee he's got more experience, leadership, and knowledge than a vacancy, so.

Which is not to say I'm super thrilled about Murthy. In his opening statement (pdf) to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions earlier this year, he went all-in on the familiar language of official fat hatred:
Using 21st century approaches and technology, I hope my tenure, if I am confirmed as Surgeon General, will be one where we marshal partnerships across the country to address the epidemics of obesity and tobacco-related disease, to reduce the crippling* stigma of mental illness, to roll back the resurgence of vaccine preventable disease, and to make prevention and health promotion the backbone of our communities.
The epidemic of obesity. Yikes.

Later, Murthy says one of his goals is to "provide the public with scientifically-based information on issues such as obesity, diet, physical activity, and tobacco cessation," which sounds terrific—except for the fact that the term "obesity epidemic" is not based on good science.

I am disappointed that yet another of the people with the most influence over the nation's perception of health is using this othering and inflammatory "epidemic" language, with zero benefit to the actual health of actual fat people.


* I am all for challenging the stigma of mental illness, but, ahh, might I suggest that the way to do that is not using language that stigmatizes physical disability.

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