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Trisha Torrey

What Does the Surgeon General Do?

By July 13, 2009

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With President Obama's nomination of Dr. Regina Benjamin, a primary care physician from Alabama, as the next Surgeon General of the United States, it seems like a good time to take a look at what the Surgeon General's role is in healthcare.

It may surprise you to know that often the Surgeon General isn't even a surgeon!

The Surgeon General of the United States leads the US Public Health Corps to oversee public health initiatives that will affect American citizens. His or her office interfaces with a dozen other health-related government offices and agencies.

Public health initiatives include smoking cessation, combating obesity, encouraging vaccinations and more.

The current Surgeon General is in an "acting" position. Rear Admiral and Doctor Steven Galson has been serving in that capacity since October 2007. President Obama is ready to replace Dr. Galson, who was appointed by President George Bush. Thus his nomination of Dr. Benjamin.

It might seem as if such a position would be non-controversial. But that is far from the truth. After all, we all want the public to be healthy! But in the past 30 years there have been several instances of disagreement and dissention between the Surgeon General and both the President and the citizenry.

With the appointment of Dr. Regina Benjamin, it would seem President Obama is hoping to allay controversy. Dr. Benjamin seems to have a worthy history of advocating for those who need help. Now we'll have to see what the Senate thinks.

Learn more about the job responsibilities of the Surgeon General of the United States.

Learn more about Dr. Regina Benjamin's qualifications for the post of Surgeon General, and who she is as a person, from:

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Photo FSMB - Federation of State Medical Boards

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