U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy (2nd. From r) with Vice President Joe Biden (l). (Facebook | U.S. Surgeon General)
Indian-American Vivek Murthy was administered the oath for the top post of U.S. Surgeon General by Vice President Joe Biden at a ceremony in Fort Myer, Virginia, Apr. 22, becoming the youngest-ever in charge of the country’s public health. A PTI report by Lalit K. Jha.
Vivek Hallegere Murthy, 37, is now the highest-ranking Indian-American in the Obama Administration.
“To have the opportunity to serve as Surgeon General is an extraordinary honor and a profound responsibility, and I want to thank President Obama for entrusting me with the stewardship of this office,” Murthy said in his address on the occasion.
Attended by eminent Indian-Americans, who flew in the military bastion from across the country to attend the Commissioning and Change of Command Ceremony, Murthy took the oath on the holy Gita.
As the U.S. Surgeon General, Murthy carries the rank of Vice Admiral.
The Health Secretary Sylvia Burwell also participated in the event.
“He is eminently qualified for the job,” Biden said on the occasion and described his family as an “incredible” family in particular his grandmother who was present on the occasion.
“I am who I am because of my grandmother’s faith, my father’s strength, my mother’s love, my sister’s support and my fiancé’s unyielding belief in me. I am blessed to have all of them here with me today. I will always be grateful to them for the sacrifices they have made,” he said, with his parents and family members seated in the audience.
“My family was never supposed to have left our ancestral village. My father is the son of a farmer in rural India. He was supposed to have been a farmer, as was I. But for my grandfather’s insistence that his son get an education — even if that meant going into debt — we might have never left that village to go out in the world and — as my grandfather also insisted — start fixing what needed fixing,” he said.
“We were not supposed to have become Americans. My parents stopped in three other countries — including a brutal dictatorship — on their journey to get here. They saved up money and scrounged for information about job opportunities, always knowing that America was the destination,” Murthy said.
In his first major policy speech, Murthy vowed to improve the public health of the country. “Here’s the thing: even as millions of Americans get covered through the Affordable Care Act, we still have much more to do,” he said.
“Public health does not exist in a vacuum. It is intrinsically linked to education, employment, the environment and our economy. There is a whole world beyond hospital corridors and clinic waiting rooms where people are struggling with issues of transportation, housing and development,” he said.
“The point is, we cannot effectively address the challenges before us until we treat health as a shared responsibility. That is why we have to build the great American community,” Murthy said.
Among top Indian-Americans to attend the ceremony were Ravi Jahangirdar, president of the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI), Ashok Kumar Mago, of the U.S.-India Chamber of Commerce and Dr Sampat Shivangi, national president of Indian American Forum for Political Education.
Congressman Ami Bera, the only Indian-American lawmaker in the current Congress, was also present at the ceremonial event.
Murthy was officially sworn in at a closed ceremony on December 18, 2014. He is the country’s 19th. Surgeon General.
Having traveled across the country for the past several months, Murthy made several announcements in his policy speech.
“We will combat misinformation with clear communication. Whether e-cigarettes or the latest diet fad, marijuana or the measles, we will give the American people the best information so they can make good decisions for their own health,” he said.
“In a world in which a lie can spread around the planet at the speed of a keystroke, we will harness the power of new technologies so that the truth has a fighting chance. And if that means I get to team up with a furry little Muppet to tell parents to vaccinate their kids, then all the better!” he added.
“We will work to move from a culture of treatment to one of prevention. We lead the world in breakthroughs that create life-saving treatments. But while the mark of a great nation may be in how we care for our most vulnerable, the test of a strong nation is how good we are at keeping them from getting sick in the first place,” Murthy said.