Still Paging Dr. Gupta? What's the Holdup?

"Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the U.S. surgeon general position, CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health care policy or any matters involving the new administration," the network said in a statement released last month.

"If he just sticks to clinical matters, I think that's OK," Johnson said.

Top Health Posts Still Empty

Still, Gupta's star power could be an asset for Obama's administration in helping to raise the profile of the office and sell health decisions to the public.

"I think that when he was initially announced, a lot of people touted that he's a prominent public figure and he has a large TV audience, so the capacity of the surgeon general to disseminate a message, he could fill that role well," Floyd said.

Among those who consider him a good fit for the job is former surgeon general Jocelyn Elders, arguably the most controversial person to hold the post. Elders resigned in 1994 after making a controverisal statement about masturbation.

In addition to his current jobs, Gupta, 39, was chosen for the selective White House Fellows program in 1997, through which he served as special advisor to Hillary Clinton when she was first lady.

Still, others outside of the medical community have said they'd oppose his appointment.

"There are highly experienced medical professionals who question whether Dr. Gupta has the necessary experience or even the medical background to be in charge of the 6,000 physicians who work in the United States Public Health Service," wrote Rep. John Conyers, Jr., a Democrat from Gupta's home state of Michigan, in a letter to House lawmakers opposing the pick.

Conyers later added, "Clearly, it is not in the best interests of the nation to have someone like this who lacks the requisite experience needed to oversee the federal agency that provides crucial health care assistance to some of the poorest and most underserved communities in America."

Meanwhile, Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Foundation, a private foundation that supports research on health system performance, said the timing of Obama's picks is nothing unusual.

"In general, it's hard to get all those appointments in place and vetted," said Davis, who served as a health official under President Carter.

Still, she added, "Health is an urgent issue that needs attention, so the sooner they have leadership, the better."

Others said the holes in Obama's team could be particularly glaring when it comes to health care.

"I think it's a huge problem," Johnson said Thursday, calling the Department of Health and Human Services "rudderless" without a secretary to lead the agency.

Though Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius remains the leading contender for the position, the administration would subsequently need to fill the other open positions under HHS' purview, including a leader for the beleaguered Food and Drug Administration and a director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as a surgeon general.

Also uncertain is the fate of the newly created Office of Health Care Reform, an arm of the White House that Obama announced when declaring Daschle his nominee.

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