WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed Dr. Vivek Hallegere Murthy as the next U.S. surgeon general by a vote of 51-43.

President Obama nominated Murthy in November 2013. Last October, several members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus CAPAC sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging them to expedite the confirmation of Murthy.

Since 2009, Murthy served as the president and co-founder of Doctors for America. He is also a hospitalist attending physician and an instructor in medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School. He received a B.A. from Harvard, an M.B.A. from Yale School of Management, and an M.D. from Yale School of Medicine.

Vivek Murthy (Photo by Meredith Nierman)
Vivek Murthy (Photo by Meredith Nierman)

McConnell and other Republicans opposed the nomination. The Kentucky senator said in a statement, “The surgeon general is known as America’s doctor and the men and women chosen to fill that role in the past have usually been highly qualified individuals with substantial experience in patient care. Unfortunately, Dr. Murthy’s nomination had more to do with politics – he was a founder in 2008 of a group called Doctors for Obama, and has been an outspoken political advocate of Obamacare and gun control – than his medical experience.

“With America facing the challenge of Ebola and other serious health challenges, it’s unfortunate that the president chose a nominee based on the candidate’s political support instead of a long career delivering patient care and managing difficult health crises.”

CAPAC members released the following statements:

Rep. Judy Chu (D-Pasadena), CAPAC Chair: “This confirmation comes at a critical time for our nation as we work to address various public health concerns, including the Ebola epidemic abroad. Dr. Murthy is the first Indian American to hold this position, which is a testament to both his own distinguished career and the great strides made by the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. His experience, talent, and compassion evinces the very characteristics needed in a surgeon general.

“I applaud Senate Majority Leader Reid for his strong leadership and unwavering commitment to prioritize this important confirmation. CAPAC has been proud to support Dr. Murthy throughout his confirmation process, and we look forward to working with him to make our country healthier and safer.”

Sen. Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii): “Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Murthy to discuss his experiences. I am particularly impressed by his work at a company he founded where he identified inefficiencies in clinical drug trials and then developed solutions to help treatments get to market more quickly. These are the kinds of innovative ideas that will keep Americans healthier, longer. We need a surgeon general who will roll up his sleeves, survey the evidence, and take action. I am confident Dr. Murthy is that surgeon general.”

Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), CAPAC chair emeritus: “The Senate’s confirmation of Vivek Hallegere Murthy as surgeon general is great news for the nation and for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. His qualifications were never in question — the only delay was because one faction of the Republican Party chose to play politics with America’s health. Dr. Murthy’s confirmation strengthens the AAPI community’s voice and presence, and marks a positive step toward addressing the need for greater diversity in all levels of government.

“His confirmation also gives voice to overcoming AAPI health disparities and barriers to health care, including a lack of available culturally competent and linguistically accessible health care. As a physician, educator, and innovator, Dr. Murthy’s wealth of knowledge on public health issues will ensure his success in his new role. I’m looking forward to his great work safeguarding the health of our nation.”

Rep. Ami Bera (D-Rancho Cordova), CAPAC Health Care Task Force co-chair: “As a practicing physician and instructor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, a champion of innovation in medicine, and a leader in the medical community, Dr. Murthy is an excellent choice for this role, and his appointment is historic for the Indian American community. As a doctor myself, I also know that the American people will benefit from having a trusted physician leader to help them navigate the complex medical issues we face today.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), CAPAC Health Care Task Force Co-Chair: “Dr. Murthy is an eminently qualified physician that has won the support of our nation’s preeminent health and physicians groups and shown strong public health leadership at home and abroad. He will make history as our nation’s youngest and first Asian American Surgeon General. In October, I co-led a letter, signed by more than 90 Members of Congress, calling for Dr. Murthy’s confirmation. I am glad the Senate has finally confirmed our nation’s top doctor.”

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii): “I extend my sincere congratulations to our new surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has demonstrated dedication to serving others. Dr. Murthy has shown his commitment and passion for improving health care, especially in the areas of mental health, obesity, chronic disease, and vaccinations. I look forward to working with him to serve the health and wellness needs of the American people.”

Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), Congressional Caucus on India and Indian Americans co-chair: “I congratulate Dr. Murthy on his confirmation as our nation’s next surgeon general. He is a dedicated fighter for public health, and I know he will work tirelessly to improve the health of all Americans. I was proud to stand with him during his confirmation process, and I look forward to working with him in his new role.

“The confirmation of the first surgeon general of Indian descent is a victory for the entire Indian American community, whose young children will grow up knowing that anything is within their reach. It’s a victory for our medical community, with a dynamic and skilled physician leading our public health policies as our nation’s top doctor. And, this is a victory for the American people and ensuring better health for all.”

Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento): “For more than 20 years, Dr. Murthy has worked to improve public health through education, research, and by providing care. I am confident that his education and experience will enable him to provide strong leadership as the nation’s doctor.”

Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.): “Although the vote was long overdue and never should have taken this long, I am happy that it finally occurred. I now look forward to him getting to work to address the important health needs of Americans. I am also excited to share this historic moment with the Indian American community. Less than a week after the Senate approved Richard Verma as the first American of Indian descent to serve as ambassador to India, Dr. Murthy was confirmed as the first Indian American to be surgeon general.

“These outstanding, back-to-back accomplishments illustrate the continued growth and influence of Indian American community, and highlights the exceptional contributions that Indian Americans make to our nation. I am proud to congratulate Dr. Murthy, and cannot wait to work with him to improve the lives of Americans.”

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