News outlets are abuzz with reports that CNN medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, has been picked by Barack Obama to be Surgeon General of the United States.
At first I was a little mortified at the news – a media personality for one of the top positions in public health in the world? But after that initial reaction I’ve decided the move is brilliant.
I spent almost a decade in Public Health, working for the University of Queensland researching, designing, implementing, and evaluating public heath interventions – primarily in the fields of teenage alcohol use and adult drink driving. Unlike much of modern medicine, Public Health is really about prevention not about responding to disease or other conditions. Prevention requires affecting individuals choices – what they chose to eat, whether they chose to smoke or exercise, whether they chose to drink drive etc etc. These types of issues are at the top of concern in health throughout the western world.
What has the most influence on the world today? The mass media, including the internet. Dr. Gupta is an accomplished neurosurgeon and clearly a very capable and intelligent man. In addition he’s photogenic (an unfortunate necessity, in today’s world) and a great communicator.
Who better to get out the message of public health?