Surgeon General Nominee Carmona’s Confirmation Likely Despite Recently Raised Concerns
Dr. Richard Carmona, President Bush's nominee for surgeon general, "appeared headed for Senate approval" yesterday despite questions about his background raised at confirmation hearing before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, USA Today reports (Leavitt, USA Today, 7/10). Carmona faced "polite but persistent questioning" from committee members about his professional record and management ability, issues that had been raised in a July 8 Los Angeles Times story, but did not have to address questions about sex education and abortion, issues that have "created political trouble" for past surgeons general (Stolberg, New York Times, 7/10). Committee Chair Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) questioned Carmona about his failing an examination for board certification two times before eventually passing eight years after completing his residency (Kranish, Boston Globe, 7/10). Carmona said that he passed the exam "in the time allotted," adding, "I don't think anybody has ever questioned my competency or my ability as a surgeon." Kennedy also asked Carmona about his 1999 resignation as head of the Pima County Health System in Arizona, a move some reported as the "outcome of a showdown" between Carmona and county health commissioners. Carmona said that he "had intended to leave all along" after "[growing] tired" of the position after three years and was "not forced out" (Garvey, Los Angeles Times, 7/10). Carmona, a professor of surgery at the University of Arizona, also "dismissed complaints" about several past "personal conflicts" and attributed the criticism to "bitter former employees" and "business disputes" (Connolly, Washington Post, 7/10). After the 90-minute hearing, Kennedy told Carmona, "I'm confident you'll be confirmed" (Los Angeles Times, 7/10). Kennedy plans to hold a vote on Carmona's confirmation later this month (AP/Richmond Times-Dispatch, 7/10).
During the hearing, Carmona said that as surgeon general he would address health issues such as AIDS, asthma and diabetes (New York Times, 7/10). He added that he would "bring more attention" to smoking, obesity and substance abuse. "If I had one central theme to bring forward ... it is prevention," Carmona said (House, Arizona Republic, 7/10). He also took a "strong stand" against the tobacco industry and agreed with Kennedy that tobacco represented the leading cause of preventable death in the United States and that the industry targeted children with its advertising. He said that he would not take a position on gun control but would inform Americans about the risks of gun ownership (New York Times, 7/10). In addition, Carmona said that he would make bioterrorism a "primary focus" (Arizona Republic, 7/10). He added that he supports proposals to build a government facility to manufacture vaccines and promised to bolster the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, a "volunteer army" of 5,700 health care employees who respond to "medical disasters" (Washington Post, 7/10). As surgeon general, Carmona would lead an office made up of about 12 staff members, issue scientific reports and oversee the commissioned corps (New York Times, 7/10). An NPR "All Things Considered" report on Carmona is available online. Note: You must have RealPlayer Audio to listen to the report.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.