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Op-ed

Senators, confirm our next surgeon general

As a physician, patient and an American citizen, I call upon the United States Senate to act swiftly and decisively to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy for surgeon general. To hold the confirmation of a highly respected health care professional for more than a year is both inexcusable and negligent and represents a failure on the part of our elected officials. The Senate should represent the best interests of all its constituents and fulfill its commitment to work tirelessly to protect the health of the communities that physicians like myself endeavor to protect every day.

Now that the midterm elections are over, this is one confirmation that can be achieved. The only special interest group the Senate should answer to is its citizenry. For me, this is personal. As a family medicine physician, I care for all individuals — every age, gender race, creed and political affiliation. When a patient enters my exam room, no matter what their background, I work tirelessly to ensure they receive the best care possible because that is the vow I took as a physician: to do no harm and to heal according to my best judgment and ability. My colleagues and I entered the profession holding this responsibility sacred and continue to do so, day in and day out.

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I expect a similar commitment from my elected officials.

This confirmation is about reaffirming the faith we place in our health care professionals. The nation desperately needs a public health leader and trusted physician to safeguard the places where we all work, live and play — the communities that physicians work for vigorously every day and that elected officials should prioritize over politics. The nation saw what it looked like to not have a surgeon general in the midst of public health crises when an Ebola "fever" swept the nation — fear, frenzy and misinformation. Health care providers and the nation were left without an ally, a voice of reassurance and facts. It would be highly irresponsible for the Senate to succumb to misplaced fear and allow this to happen again.

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Senators: Do not leave the medical community to do the work of protecting our communities and nation alone. Please do not disrespect the integrity of our daily work. Stand with the health of our nation. Stand with the hundreds of the most highly respected organizations that represent hundreds of thousands in our medical community. I implore you to take a stand and confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy to be our spokesperson, America's doctor, our 21st century surgeon general.

Dr. Murthy has more than 20 years of credentials and experience. Dr. Murthy is a visionary and a humanitarian who works on prevention and education of global health issues like HIV/AIDs which affect our communities every day. Dr. Murthy has advised and assisted in our own country's Prevention Council. Dr. Murthy is a mobilizer and a unifier, building teams of health professionals from all sides of public health issues and facilitating solutions to heal our nation's ailing health care system based on science and public health. Dr. Murthy is an entrepreneur, a scientific innovator who pushes the envelope; he understands the language of today's technology to meet today's evidenced based science and how to use it for good, to make our nation healthy. And most importantly, Dr. Murthy is one of us. He represents me. He is an everyday doctor for everyday people.

We desperately need a voice that represents us health professionals in Washington. We need a surgeon general's voice at the table. We need Dr. Murthy's leadership dedicated to keeping our nation's health at the forefront of discussion. We need Dr. Murthy's leadership to make rational, thoughtful decisions; to be proactive, not reactive to the nation's health crises we face every day including poverty, hunger, safety, access all the things that contribute to the medical diseases we deal with every day, including asthma, obesity and diabetes. We need a dedicated, leading health voice in Washington who is committed to serving the health of our nation — not some days, every day.

Senators, you have the power to make this confirmation happen. So please, stop the madness. Choose the health of our nation over politics. Confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy to be our next surgeon general. Choose our top doc now.

Dr. Manisha Sharma is medical director of Evergreen Health Care, a Maryland based nonprofit. Her email is manishaim@aol.com.


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