Indian-American physician Vivek Murthy has been sworn in as the 21st Surgeon General of the US, a role in which his top priority would be to end the coronavirus pandemic that has severely hit the country and be a voice for science.
“Honoured to be sworn in as your Surgeon General. I owe this day to my family who has guided & supported me every step of the way,” Dr Murthy, 43, said on Thursday soon after being sworn in as the top doctor of the country by Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.
He has occupied the position of America’s Surgeon General for the second time. In 2011, president Barack Obama tapped him to serve on the advisory group on prevention, health promotion, and integrative and public health.
“I stand ready to work with you to end this pandemic & build a world where good health is within everyone’s grasp,” he said.
“Ready to take on this position as the Nation’s Doctor to help end this pandemic, be a voice for science, & support our nation on its path to rebuilding and healing,” said Dr Murthy, who now is the highest ranking Indian-American in the Biden administration.
COVID-19 has taken the lives of several members of Murthy’s extended family. During his confirmation hearing in February, he said that seven of his family members in India and America have died due to the virus.
A day earlier Murthy was confirmed by the Senate by 57-43 votes.
As US Surgeon General, Murthy will advise President Biden on the coronavirus pandemic and will be the federal government’s leading voice on public health.
In 2013, Obama nominated Dr Murthy to be the Surgeon General. He was the youngest ever to hold the office at the age of 37. However, he had to abruptly leave the position during the Trump administration.
During his previous tenure as 19th Surgeon General, Dr Murthy has created initiatives to tackle America’s most pressing public health challenges.
As “America’s Doctor he helped lead the national response to a range of health challenges, including the Ebola and Zika viruses, the opioid crisis, and the growing threat of stress and loneliness to Americans’ physical and mental wellbeing.
He also issued the first Surgeons General’s report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health, in which he challenged the nation to expand access to prevention and treatment and to recognise addiction as a chronic illness, not a character flaw. Dr Murthy continued the office’s legacy on preventing tobacco-related disease, releasing a historic Surgeon General’s report on e-cigarettes and youth.
Prior to his tenure as Surgeon General, Dr Murthy co-founded VISIONS, a global HIV/AIDS education organization; the Swasthya Project, a rural health partnership that trained women in South India to become community health workers and educators; TrialNetworks, a technology company dedicated to improving collaboration and efficiency in clinical trials; and Doctors for America, a nonprofit mobilising physicians and medical students to improve access to affordable care.
His scientific research has focused on vaccine development and the participation of women and minorities in clinical trials. As an internal medicine doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and at Harvard Medical School, Dr Murthy cared for thousands of patients over the years and trained undergraduates, medical students, and medical residents.
Raised in Miami, Dr Murthy received his bachelor of arts degree from Harvard, his masters in business administration from the Yale School of Management, and his MD from the Yale School of Medicine.
Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal said that Dr Murty is an exceptionally talented, experienced, and compassionate leader who will continue guiding our country forward in our efforts to finally defeat this virus and tackle the many public health crises the country faces — from an epidemic of gun violence to environmental injustice.
Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus chair Congresswoman Judy Chu said that it is significant that Dr Murthy will be one of the top Asian Americans in federal government at a moment when Asian American and Pacific Islanders communities are being disproportionately impacted by both the coronavirus as well as surging anti-Asian discrimination and violence.
“During this critical time, it is significant to have a Surgeon General who understands these differences between communities and the need to target help where it is most needed in culturally and linguistically competent ways. I applaud President Biden for elevating such a qualified public health expert as Dr Murthy and for his commitment to building a diverse federal workforce that more closely resembles the country we serve,“ she said.
The US has the highest coronavirus case tally in the world at 30,079,283 and the highest death toll at 546,822.
Some 18 million Americans are still relying on unemployment insurance and some 400,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors.