Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gupta for Surgeon General?

I have mixed feelings, and apparently I'm not alone. Lots of chatter over on the science and medical blogs about it. Orac had a long piece at Respectful Insolence in which he expressed doubts about Gupta based in part on Gupta being a little too credulous about "alternative medicine," Physioprof did his usual WTF, PZ Myers isn't thrilled (but then he rarely is), the list is long one -- and the Pump Handle was nice enough to do a round-up with links to some of the more articulate reactions.

In an odd way it looks like many of the things that make Sanjay Gupta a good choice -- his likeablility, the fact he looks good in front of a camera and knows how to communicate complex scientific and medical information in a way the general public can understand -- are the same things that are being used as reasons he'd be a poor choice. There's a sense he lacks gravitas. He's not sufficiently . . . what? Dour? Old? Fatherly? Too much Dr. McDreamy and not enough Bob Kelso?

My own feeling is that from a political perspective Gupta's an ideal choice. He's not an ideologue, the public trusts him, and he'll make a great salesman for whatever healthcare plan the Obama administration proposes. He practices at Grady Hospital, Fulton County's public hospital that's had budgetary woes for years due to its high charity caseload, so he's had an upclose look at everything that's wrong with the current U.S. healthcare system. At the same time, the qualms I have are similar to Orac's: would Gupta buy into New Age woo a little too easily, for example, and give the anti-vaccine crowd and others more of a hearing than they deserve?


  1. Thanks, Nan, for addressing this. I've seen some of the coverage of this, but have not focused on it at all. Your posts summarizes the situation and questions about Gupta's potential appointment well.

  2. I thought it was an inspired choice for many reasons, and ethnicity is part of it. More diversity and he's recognized and easy on the eyes. I'm a bit shallow that way.

  3. i like the idea of someone that thinks out side the box, especially when it comes to medicine

  4. I like doctors who are flexible in their thinking, too, but I worry that Gupta isn't so much an outside-the-box thinker as a not sufficiently critical and/or gullible one.


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