Los Angeles Times Examines ‘Controversial Past’ of Surgeon General Nominee Carmona
With Senate confirmation hearings for the vacant surgeon general position set to begin tomorrow, the Los Angeles Times examines the "controversial past" of nominee Richard Carmona. Carmona, whom White House aides have touted as a "real-life Indiana Jones," appeared "too good to be true" when HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson first began interviewing him for the vacancy, the Times reports. A high school dropout, Carmona earned accolades for serving in the Vietnam War and eventually became a trauma surgeon and a "moonlighting" SWAT team member. However, the Times, which conducted dozens of interviews and analyzed hundreds of documents, reports that there is "another side of the man." In the past, Carmona has been "forced out" of two top hospital management jobs; has "infuriated colleagues"; took eight years after his residency ended to earn board certification; and boasted of "exploits [which] were not quite as sensational" as the media portrayed them.
Although Carmona has admitted in previous interviews that "not everyone likes him," the Times reports that some former supervisors and colleagues say that "conflicts have been more than simple personality clashes." Charles Putnam, a surgery professor at the University of Arizona who has worked with Carmona, wrote to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), the chair of the committee reviewing Carmona's nomination, expressing "[c]oncerns about Carmona's professional record." Putnam wrote that he did not want a surgeon general "who was removed from his two previous administrative appointments ... because he could not work in an effective or even a civil manner with health professionals and other constituencies of those positions." The Times reports court and hospital records indicate that other doctors also have complained about Carmona's lack of cooperation, "high-handedness," "unwillingness to communicate" and propensity to escalate arguments "in an effort to prove he was right." Still, some former critics of Carmona say that the "bully-pulpit nature" of the surgeon general position suits Carmona well, the Times reports (Pedersen/Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 7/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.