Dr. Gupta Withdraws Name for Surgeon General

CNN doctor out of the running, leaving another vacancy for Obama team.

ByABC News
February 20, 2009, 4:05 PM

March 5, 2009 — -- Sanjay Gupta says he is no longer in the running to be the nation's next surgeon general, CNN reported today, as President Obama brought health care to center stage.

CNN cited his desire to continue working instead as a neurosurgeon and CNN medical analyst. His wife is pregnant with their third child.

It has been two months since ABC News first learned that Obama was paging CNN journalist Dr. Sanjay Gupta to become the nation's next surgeon general.

Since early January, several people have speculated about what was taking the celebrity doctor so long to answer the call.

And despite some concerns about Gupta's qualifications, some said the reason the surgeon general selection had not been formally announced since Gupta's name leaked on Jan. 6 may not have had anything to do with Gupta himself.

Until Obama announced Kathleen Sebelius as his pick for Secretary of Health and Human Serivces earlier this week, the spot for the administration's top health official was also vacant. Two weeks ago, several medical experts said that given the Feb. 3 withdrawal of Tom Daschle, Obama's initial pick for the HHS secretary's post, Obama's team may have been reassessing the balance.

HHS is the umbrella agency that encompasses the office of the surgeon general.

"Whether or not a new HHS secretary would want him or how this works out, I think this is all up in the air," ABC News medical contributor Dr. Timothy Johnson had told ABCNews.com.

The White House, too, had said it was waiting to fill the top post at HHS before making an official announcement about surgeon general. Coupled with efforts to make the vetting process more stringent after the withdrawal of three Cabinet nominees, many said the Obama team would take its sweet time in bringing Gupta to Washington.

Logistical and financial concerns, as well as hiccups in the vetting process, could have played a part, too.

For starters, Gupta would have likely taken a pay cut as he moved from television personality and neurosurgeon to federal employee. As CNN's chief medical correspondent, a practicing neurosurgeon and associate chief of neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, and an assistant professor of neurosurgery at the Emory University School of Medicine, Gupta likely earns much more than he would have as surgeon general.

Meanwhile, the prospect of Gupta taking the job had also proven controversial.

Dr. James Floyd, researcher at consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said several of Gupta's broadcast reports "undermine his credibility," whether reporting on autism or screening tests and prevention.

For instance, Floyd is among those who said Gupta was too soft on Merck's Vioxx drug before it was removed from the market, explaining, "He completely just misinterpreted how the data was reported.

"He seems a lot of times like a spokesperson for the latest and greatest drugs or technology," Floyd said.