Sanjay Gupta the New US Surgeon General?

It’s looking suspiciously as though Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be offered (and accept) the position of US Surgeon General. Gupta is a very well-known television personality, appearing on Anderson Cooper’s show often and acting as CNN’s chief medical correspondent. With vaccines and autism so much in the news, you may be interested to know that he got a bit of a scolding from Orac awhile ago thanks to this blog post, which to me sounds just a bit naive on the issue of vaccine safety. Of course, “just a bit naive” is forgivable for a TV doctor, but a little disturbing for a surgeon general.

On the plus side, he advocated for the Gardasil vaccine and doesn’t seem to stray into any alternative medicine territory. His advice on topics like aging and taking supplements is science-based. He’s an intriguing choice, thanks to his experience as a dynamic personality who takes the spotlight and uses it to promote health. Also, the nice thing about such a public person is that we can see exactly what he thinks about a range of topics. Time will tell, though, how he ultimately treats the big issues. He could be a huge benefit, or a huge liability.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. If you ask me, the last good Surgeon General we had was Joycelyn Elders. She was the only one with the courage and stamina to tell it like it is—and it got her fired by a petty, backwards-thinking President (who, given how things turned out, probably would have benefited much from her advice) desperate to heap platitudes on an ignorant populace.

    I mean, for crying out loud—even Fox News says masturbation is healthy!

  2. Put Steve Novella in there. It’s about time white males got a break in this country.

    Actually, anyone from Science-Based Medicine would be good with me.

  3. He does seem to have a kind of disappointing take on marijuana though:

    While at the same time he admits to it having medicinal benefits for some, he is against decriminalizing it, just because those who don’t need it will use it. So once again, we have the kind of hypocritical stance where we have alcohol legal, but are unwilling to legalize/decriminalize something similar, just because people might like using it. Too bad for those who will benefit from using it. It’s unfortunate he doesn’t realize that prohibition is a failed drug policy.

  4. @shanek: Totally, Elders was awesome! Actually, I should say that she IS awesome, because I’ve seen her do interviews in the past few years and she comes across as totally kick-ass.

    @darwinfan: Damn, you’re right, that’s a very disappointing stance on pot.


    My dad reads that “magazine” published by the people at Life Extension and pisses away hundreds of dollars a month on supplements. They are very good at using the language of science and supporting their claims with “evidence” from scientific journals, but if you actually bother to look up their citations on pubmed it’s mostly stuff done to cells in petri dishes or in rats, which aren’t always terribly relevant to humans. Most of the studies they cite have very little to do with the products they are hawking or the benefits they imply. Do you think Dr. Gupta was compensated financially for the “interview” he gave with that particular magazine/catalog? I’d be willing to bet my twice autographed skepchick calendar he’s got a little of that jingle in his jeans.

  6. On Anderson Cooper’s recent CNN special “Planter in Peril,” Sanjay Gupta covered Chinese medicine’s use of endangered species. Referring to using tiger paws for verility, etc, he said ‘the jury is still out on whether these ancient cures really work.’ He didn’t show any scientific skepticism at all. I for one will be very discouraged by this appointment.

  7. “…but a little disturbing for an attorney general.”

    Didja mean surgeon general there?

  8. I’m am so disappointed. I was really holding out for Patterson Joseph.

    In seriousness, the only real familiarity I have with Gupta was a pissing match Michael Moore had with him over whose more-or-less-similar numbers were more correct:

    Moore, of course is a bombastic polarizer. A bombastic polarizer that usually has a pretty good point, but Moore went out of his way to harp on Gupta over pretty much nothing in this instance, and Gupta handled himself well…

    I’m still a little troubled by the vaccine misstep is problematic, though. I’m not so sure it’s even so forgivable (though, it’s surely of less consequence) for one of the premier health reporters, from whom millions of Americans get their health information, to not check into these facts properly.

  9. Doh, sorry, fixed the “attorney” thing, a mistake that for some reason I was continually making for the 15 min. preceding my typing of the post.

  10. He did not impress me as being very knowledgeable during all the Hurricane Katrina coverage, but that may have just been the waves of douchiness coming off of Anderson Cooper.

  11. There’s one guy I’ve been championing for years, and he fulfills both needs. He’s media savvy, and he’s a very strong skeptic on medical issues.

    Dr. Dean Edell. Here’s his Wiki for those not familiar with him –

    Here’s an interview he did with The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

    He’s a great communicator and has the ability to be blunt while still making tough subjects go down smooth.

  12. Speaking of Dr. Elders, I think her advice would be spot on in our foreign relations. Put her in a room with a sensitively creative lecture on the joys of self-love, a banana and a group of radical Islamic men, and I can bet you the violence in these countries would significantly decrease. (Also, maybe bring some World of Warcraft and Guitar Hero for the other 6 hours remaining in the day. Man cannot live by masterbation alone.)

  13. Was Dr Phil unavailable?

    I would rather see Dr 90210 become surgeon general. Gupta is a shill.

    There has never been evidence of a spine that I have seen. His ‘principled stand’ against Moore was a recitation of GOP talking points rather than an objective look at facts / evidence, or even the points Moore actually made in the movie.

    He’s a good employee though and has a bright smile.

    Heh. Not my fav guy.

  14. @Mr. Funnypants: Dr. Dean Edell.


    Not in our wildest dreams. For one thing, Dr. Dean is pro-legalization of pretty much everything but anti-biotics, which he favors stricter controls on. In other words, he’s a reality based thinker and hence doomed. But he would make a kick-ass Surgeon General.

  15. Why it is good to have a solid communicator in as Surgeons General (note the ‘s’ at the end), it would be better to not Hollywood-ize the position. It blurs the line between real science and pop science. Gupta is okay, but I’d prefer a full-time MD/PhD that was active in community health and many organizations. Health is a major issue going forward, and while a communicator is good, someone that will change our national lifestyle and view on science-based medicine is what is desperately needed.

  16. For me, a quick google search revealed his bouts with Moore and Maher, but I’ve seen him all tv several times. And, all I’ve ever seen was him, speculating on the diagnosis of celebrities and politicians. He may be a capable doctor, but Surgeon General? I’d only expect that if Perez Hilton was in the White House.

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