Senate confirms Vivek Murthy as surgeon general

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March 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. Senate has confirmed Dr. Vivek Murthy as surgeon general, returning him to the position he held under the former Obama administration.

The Senate voted 57-43 on Tuesday mostly along party lines with seven Republicans crossing the aisle to cast ballots in his favor.

"I'm deeply grateful to be confirmed by the Senate to serve once again as your surgeon general," Murthy said in a statement. "We've endured great hardship as a nation over the past year, and I look forward to working with you to help our nation heal and create a better future for our children."

According to the Office of the Surgeon General, the so-called nation's doctor is tasked with providing Americans with the best scientific information to "improve their health and reduce the risk of injury" while overseeing the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps' more than 6,000 uniformed public health officers.

Murthy, 43, served as surgeon general under the former Obama administration for which President Joe Biden served as vice president.

Murthy was asked to resign in April 2017 by then President Donald Trump.

Biden nominated Murthy for the position in December, saying the doctor would have expanded responsibilities under his administration amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"He will be a key public voice on the COVID response to restore public trust and faith in science and medicine," Biden said, adding one of the reasons he nominated Murthy is because when he speaks people listen.

"They trust you," he said. "You have a way of communicating, they can just see it in your eyes."

Biden said Murthy would also advise him on leading a whole-of-government approach to health issues.

During his confirmation hearing last month, Murthy told lawmakers the central job of the surgeon general is to communicate information that is backed by science, a goal that has been hampered during the pandemic as the understanding of the coronavirus has been constantly changing.

As surgeon general, he said he would work with federal medical agencies to ensure information that is delivered to the public is clear and science-based and that if guidance does change to explain why it was been altered.

"But I think perhaps more importantly ... public education actually starts not with speaking but with listening," he said. "I have learned far more by listening to the people that I have sought to serve than from reading textbooks.

"Understanding their concerns, their needs, understanding how they interpret information can help us do better as public servants and public educators and that would be the approach that I would seek to take if I had the privileged of serving."

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., congratulated Murthy on Twitter, calling him "a highly experienced, crisis-tested leader."

"I'm looking forward to working with him to address this pandemic and the underlying health inequities it has made way worse," she said.

Murthy will be replacing Susan Orsega, who has served as acting surgeon general since January when Jerome M. Adams resigned at the request of then-President-elect Biden.

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