(HealthDay News) — The COVID-19 pandemic and the opioid overdose crisis are top priorities for Vivek Murthy, M.D., who was confirmed as the new U.S. Surgeon General by the Senate on Tuesday.
This is his second time in that position. He was surgeon general under former President Barack Obama, the Associated Press reported. During his confirmation hearing, Murthy said he wanted to help Americans protect themselves from COVID-19 by providing “clear, science-based guidance” to the general public. Murthy, who has lost several members of his extended family to COVID-19, was co-chair of the Biden transition team’s COVID-19 advisory board and is believed to have a close personal relationship with the president.
From his previous stint as surgeon general, Murthy said he is most proud of his efforts to call attention to the opioid epidemic, the consequences of which were not fully understood at the time. After dipping slightly, opioid deaths have again risen, the AP reported. “We cannot neglect the other public health crises that have been exacerbated by this pandemic, particularly the opioid epidemic, mental illness, and racial and geographic health inequities,” Murthy said at his confirmation hearing.
Murthy has drawn the ire of gun rights advocates by saying that mass shootings amount to a public health problem, but he told senators on Tuesday that “my focus is not on this issue, and if I’m confirmed it will be on COVID, on mental health and substance use disorder.”