Gupta Is A Great Choice

During the campaign, Barack Obama got tagged for being too much of a celebrity, with a famous ad that displayed images of the then-Senator interspersed with photos of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. So, my first thought upon hearing the news that Obama intends to name Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN fame as the next Surgeon General was, "Here we go again." But, my second thought was that this appointment makes a great deal of sense.

The Surgeon General’s job is not to devise cutting edge technological or medical advances. His or her job is to further the public health of the nation and on three issues especially, the principal need is for someone who can communicate effectively with the public, especially with young people. Gupta is a star in front of the camera and if anyone can devise a way to reach young people and change their behaviors, it is him.


Obesity is an epidemic among the nation’s youth. But, if you read what they read, magazines about celebrities and reality television personalities (and it is better to put pins in your eyes than to have to read what they read), you would think that anorexia is the nation’s foremost medical problem. Every time a Hollywood starlet puts on a few pounds, her career is endangered. A trip to the health spa is not about being healthy; it is about being thin. This has to change.

Gupta can take a page from his predecessors’ who realized that to get teenagers to stop smoking they had to make smoking uncool. Sexy became linked to good health and good breath, movies no longer featured sultry stars taking slow drags on their cigarettes, a series of ads directed specifically at young people painted smokers as ignorant bumpkins who should no better. It worked. Smoking rates plummeted.

Unintended pregnancy is another urgent issue. I am not a creative sort, so I am not sure how you convince teenagers with raging hormonal issues that sex is uncool. But, I think Gupta can find ways to convince kids that an unintended pregnancy is definitely uncool. These cultural waters are treacherous, given the variety of views about contraception, sex education, parental rights, etc. But, there is broad agreement that preventing unintended pregnancies is critical in the effort to lower the abortion rate, so the possibility of finding some common ground is worth the effort.


HIV/AIDS is on the rise among young people, especially among young African-American males. A five-city study by the Center for Disease Control in 2005 showed that among young gay black males, the infection rate was 46 percent, a rate that rivals sub-Saharan Africa. Shame on the mostly white, and mostly well off, leadership of gay rights organizations for putting gay marriage ahead of fighting HIV/AIDS at the top of their agenda. Gupta needs to shine a bright light on this issue, enlist the aid of churches, community organizations and cultural stars like actors and ball players to address this horrific and avoidable epidemic. We know how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS but we have not figured out how to get that information to the young people who need it.

There is a lesson here for the pro-life community as well. In America’s star-crazed culture, one of the ways to make people see the value in adoption over abortion, in abstinence over sexual promiscuity, is to make good choices cool. Some kids listen to their pastors but others listen to their sports heroes and favorite actors. Did I miss the statements from the pro-life leaders or the bishops praising Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for adopting? I am not a fan of the star-crazed aspects of our culture, but they are a fact, and if we can raise the adoption rate by using them, so be it.

The Gupta nomination makes sense. Let’s hope he can make a change in some of these public health challenges.



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10 years ago
Shame, is there no pro-abortion person you will not gush over? Gupta supports abortions for disabled unborn children, opposing protections for pro-life medical professionals, and denying the risks associated with the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug. She is also against the new conscious provision recently instituted by the Bush administration. When a doctor denies when human life begins they are the worst of doctors. They do no follow science by ideology. Obama could appoint Abortion doctor George Tiller and you would find some way to say he is reaching out to the pro-life administration. Wake up and smell the saline. His picks will all advance the culture of death. I wish it was otherwise.
10 years ago
Ah, those mythic "well-off" "mostly white" gays. Who represent ALL gays, of course. Since there aren't any gays struggling just to make ends meet, trying to pay taxes and house mortgages and living without any health coverage (even when their partner has coverage, which they cannot share). Or dealing with the economic effects of discrimination when Catholic institutions fire them for being gay . . . . I keep reading about those mythic well-off white gays. I'd like to meet one or two of them, since they're so talked about--just to reassure myself that they exist. Can anyone say stereotype? Can anyone say pre-judgment of an entire group of human beings? Is it any wonder that so many of us who are LGBT keep away from the church, when this is what we encounter on a routine basis from its spokespersons?
10 years ago
Sean: your comments about “mostly white, and mostly well off, leadership of gay rights organizations for putting gay marriage ahead of fighting HIV/AIDS at the top of their agenda” are, at best, disingenuous. Who do you think were in the forefront of HIV/AIDS care in the early 1980s when most people (including healthcare workers) wouldn’t even touch a person with AIDS? Who do you think fought local and national governmental agencies for funding for AIDS research and treatment? Who do you think did the dirty work before government and, yes, the Catholic Church, turned the other way? Those of us who lived through, and, by the grace of God, survived those horrible years listen to comments such as yours with disdain, no, disgust! We have put the fight against HIV/AIDS at the “top of our agenda” long before you were old enough to be so misinformed. Shame on you!
10 years ago
I'd be very careful with the potshots against LGBT rights organizations. One could retort, "Shame on the Catholic Church for placing such an emphasis on banning same-sex marriage and tacitly supporting countries that imprison homosexuals, when the world has never known such poverty and wars rage in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, Africa..."
10 years ago
There is no common ground with Gupta. See Gupta has been accused of supporting abortions for disabled unborn children, opposing protections for pro-life medical professionals, and denying the risks associated with the dangerous RU 486 abortion drug. In a December report for CNN, Gupta appeared to join abortion advocates in condemning the Bush administration for approving new regulations that offer more protections for doctors and medical centers not wanting to be involved in abortions. Gupta's report appeared more like an editorial and stressed the concerns pro-abortion groups laid out about the plan. Meanwhile, Dave Shiflett, in a November 2003 column for National Review, said Gupta mirrored the views of a CNN news story on abortion and Down syndrome babies. Shiflett accused CNN of reporting on a new prenatal test that can detect the presence of Down Syndrome and saying the greatest benefit of it is that it gives "mothers-to-be more peace of mind and more time to end a pregnancy." Hardly someone who will find ways to redcue abortions when he wants them done on disabled babies and will force medical staff to do them!
10 years ago
I agree that your potshot against the gay groups is unwarranted. Certainly HIV-AIDS warrants more attention, (reconsidering the Church's anti-condom policy would be a step in the right direction), but laws designed specifically to prevent loving, committed couples from obtaining the protections of civil marriage are a national embarrassment. There are plenty of wrongs to right, and the gay groups have their work cut out for them. Your chiding is unhelpful.
10 years ago
You write: "Did I miss the statements from the pro-life leaders or the bishops praising Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie for adopting?". You mean the divorced movie star who has yet to "marry" his paramour? In this divorce-mad world, it seems to be the wife who is thrown under the bus.


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