Surgeon General Nominee To Speak at Medical, Dental Schools' Class Day

Embattled Surgeon General nominee Vivek H. Murthy ’98, a physician at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, will address graduates of the Medical School and School of Dental Medicine at Class Day on May 29.

Murthy’s selection as Class Day speaker was reported by Harvard Magazine on March 28. According to the Medical School Dean of Students, the graduating class of both schools select the speaker by class-wide nominations followed by an online, class-wide vote. Students send the invitation.

Murthy has had a much more difficult time in the U.S. Senate, where his nomination as Surgeon General has been stalled by Congressional conservatives. The National Rifle Association, many Republicans, and as many as ten conservative Democrats oppose Murthy’s nomination because he has advocated that gun policy be treated as a health issue. Others have called the move a political stunt.

In the face of Congressional opposition, the White House said in late March that it was “recalibrating” its approach to the appointment process.

Murthy is the co-founder of Doctors for America, a 16,000-member organization of physicians and medical school students that aims to expand access to affordable health care. The group was originally called Doctors for Obama.

Murthy also founded the non-profit Visions Worldwide, Inc., which focuses on AIDS education, and TrialNetworks, a system to improve clinical trial efficiency to bring new drugs to market in a faster and safer manner.

Despite the political controversy surrounding Murthy’s appointment, students and faculty members at the Medical School said that they are excited the nominee will be speaking at the annual Class Day festivities.

“Vivek Murthy combines compassion and intelligence, plus consistent hard work, to help...families through health crises via increasing their access to care,” Adam R. Frange, a teaching assistant in chemistry, wrote in an e-mail.

Medical School professor Gerald B. Pier said he first met Murthy during a Harvard Summer School program while Murthy was still in high school. The two kept in contact and conducted research together while Murthy attended the College and the Medical School.

Pier said that he believes Murthy “can bring some perspective to the graduating Medical School class about what can they expect to await them once they begin their training.”

Pier said that Murthy’s support from the Medical School and nomination as Class Day speaker show “that the community is behind him during this difficult political situation.”

Omar Abudayyeh, a second-year student at the Medical School, also expressed support for Murthy.

“I think he is a fantastic choice for Surgeon General. He cares about serious public health crises that are affecting the nation including, obesity, tobacco, mental health, and prevention, and is bold enough to recognize that gun violence is part of the greater issue of mental health,” Abudayyeh wrote in an e-mail.

—Staff writer Steven H. Tenzer can be reached at stenzer@college.harvard.edu.

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