Who is Vivek Murthy, the Indian-origin doctor appointed as Surgeon General by Joe Biden

As surgeon general, Murthy will have a task at hand given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the US and will be one of Biden’s closest advisers on the matter besides handling the government’s public outreach.

Indian-American Dr Vivek Murthy will reprise his role as surgeon general under the Joe Biden administration after serving under former President Barack Obama. The US President-elect Joe Biden announced his picks for the health team, which will be led by Xavier Becerra as Secretary of Health and Human Services.

As surgeon general, Murthy will have his task cut out given the impact of the coronavirus pandemic in the US. He will be one of Biden’s closest advisers on containing the virus, besides handling the government’s public outreach.

Dr Murthy has over two decades of experience serving as a physician, research scientist, and former Vice Admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Who is Dr Vivek Murthy?

Born on July 10, 1977 in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, Murthy was brought up in Miami where his parents moved when he was three years old. His parents, who were also medical practitioners, hail from Karnataka.

Murthy did his schooling at Miami Palmetto Senior High School before attending Harvard for his Bachelor’s degree. He later completed his MD and MBA degrees from Yale. He completed his residency training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, where he later joined the faculty as an internal medicine physician and instructor.

While he was still an undergrad at Harvard in 1995, Dr Murthy co-founded VISIONS Worldwide with his sister Rashmi, a nonprofit group dedicated to educating people in India and the United States on AIDS and HIV issues. In 1997, he co-founded the Swasthya Community Health Partnership to train women as community health workers in rural India.

The Obama years

In 2008, Murthy found Doctors for Obama (later Doctors for America) to support Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in his race to the White House against Senator John McCain. A non-profit organisation comprising over 16,000 physicians and medical students in all 50 states of the US, Doctors for Obama aimed to bring affordable healthcare system for all by consulting the patients and policymakers alike.

In 2011, Murthy was appointed to serve as a member of the advisory group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

On December 15, 2014, Murthy was confirmed as the 19th United States Surgeon General, a position he held until April 21, 2017.

As surgeon general, Murthy focused on drug and alohol addiction, besides promoting healthy lifestyle among the public. To his credit, Murthy launched efforts to increase physical activity in communities across the country, including a two-week public-private partnership with Fitbit that engaged over 600,000 people to take an industry record-setting 60 billion steps. He was also an advocate of vaccination among children and partnered with children’s character Elmo in a popular video that demystified vaccines for parents and children.

Under Biden

Murthy was appointed as one of Biden’s top three advisers on tackling the coronavirus ahead of November’s general election. On the country’s approach to fight the pandemic, Murthy said that it must be “a dial that we turn up and down, depending on severity.”

“If we just lock down the entire country without targeting our efforts, then we are going to exacerbate the ‘pandemic fatigue’ people are feeling, you’re going to hurt jobs and the economy, you’re going to shut down schools and hurt the education of our children,” Murthy said on Fox News Sunday.

“So we’ve got to approach this with the precision of a scalpel rather than the force of an ax,” he said, adding that the imposition of another lockdown would be a “measure of last resort”.

On November 9, Biden announced that Murthy would co-chair his Covid-19 Advisory Board, alongside former Food and Drug Administration commissioner David A Kessler and Marcella Nunez-Smith, a public health professor at Yale. On December 7, Biden announced Murthy would be his nominee for the Surgeon General of the United States.

After his selection as the new surgeon general, Murthy said, “I never dreamed I’d have the honor to once again serve as Surgeon General. In this moment of crisis, I’m grateful for the opportunity to help end this pandemic, be a voice for science, and support our nation on its path to rebuilding and healing.”

“The best doctor is not an authority figure who writes prescriptions, but rather a partner in healing — someone who sees patients in their fullest humanity and empowers them to take charge of their health. That’s what I will always strive to be as America’s Doctor,” he said.

Murthy resides in Washington, DC with his wife, Alice Chen, also a doctor, and their two young children.

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