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Searching for a Surgeon General

Posted Mar 10 2009 3:10pm

With Sanjay Gupta out of the running for Surgeon General, the Obama Administration needs to find someone else. No one seems to know who it’s going to be. There’s even speculation that Howard Dean would take the job, though he insists he’s not interested.

In a conversation with SimulConsult founder Mickey Segal, MD, PhD he suggested it would be useful to have someone like Dr. Jonathan Newmark, who has broad practical experience and knows his way through the bureaucracy.

When I was a college student, ROTC had been eliminated, and I got into the military by a very roundabout route. I never seriously considered the military even as a part-time career until much later. I joined the US Army Reserve at age 35 and unexpectedly came on active duty on my 40th birthday, making me one of the Army’s oldest rookies. I can tell Columbia students, though, that my only regret was that I didn’t join earlier. I became a physician, completed my residency and three fellowships, and had a very rewarding career as an attending university faculty neurologist and in private practice before I ever came on active status. When I came into the Army, I thought I was being recruited to use my previous clinical and teaching skills, and I have done that. But I had no idea that the Army would also turn me into several other things: a mass casualty planner dealing with threats of terrorism in the Middle East; a subject matter expert asked to approve medical support plans for the Iraq invasion; a primary physician for several hundred soldiers stationed in the Central American jungle doing humanitarian missions; a chemical weapons expert deploying on State Department and FBI teams to deal with terrorism worldwide; co-host of the largest continuing medical education courses ever televised; adviser to the assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Services for public health emergency preparedness; co-author of a chapter in the most widely read English-language medical textbook, Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine; and a plenary speaker at the American Academy of Neurology’s annual meeting in front of 5,000 people and the medical press.

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