01 May, 2017

Trump appoints new Surgeon General

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As Trump reaches the 100-day milestone, he has signed more bills into law than his 3 predecessors but is yet to achieve any major legislation changes.

Despite hefty campaign promises, Obamacare and the Affordable Care Act remains in place.

Having said that, Trump has made some waves in healthcare, most recently with his new appointment of Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams as Surgeon General.

On Friday, April 21st, Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy, an Obama administration holdover, was asked to resign. This move made way for his deputy Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams to become the first nurse who is not a physician to serve as Surgeon General.

In a Facebook post late Friday night, Dr. Murthy said, “While I had hoped to do more to help our nation tackle its biggest health challenges, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have served.” Employees at the Department of Health and Human Services privately expressed surprise at his sudden departure, the New York Times reported.

Although it remains unclear as to why Surgeon General Murthy was asked to step-down, some have speculated that it comes in response to his stance on gun control. For many years, he has called gun violence a public health threat.

Dr. Murthy was asked to resign after assisting with the transition between the Obama and Trump administrations, an HHS spokeswoman told The New York Times in an emailed statement. However, Alice Chen, MD, Dr. Murthy’s wife, told the newspaper he was asked to resign, refused and was fired.

On Facebook, Dr. Murthy said, “Many have asked why I chose not to resign as Surgeon General when I was asked to do so. My reason was simple: because I would never willfully abandon my commitment to my Commissioned Corps officers, to the American people, and to all who have stood with me to build a healthier and more compassionate America.”

New appointee Admiral Trent-Adams received a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, where she also served as a research nurse. As a nurse officer in the army, she joined the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service in 1992 and served as the deputy associate administrator for the HIV/AIDS bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration before joining the surgeon general’s office.

Admiral Trent-Adams is not the first healthcare appointment by Trump during his first 100 days.

Tom Price was confirmed as the new Health and Human Services Secretary back in February. Another contentious pick from President Trump, Tom Price was confirmed by a strictly in-party line of 52 to 4 despite another democratic boycott.

Tom Price’s seven-year congress history, started back in 2004 when he was first elected to serve Georgia 6th district. Prior to this, he had served as Minority Whip for the Georgia State Senate. Since then, he has served on multiple committees including serving as Chair of the House Committee on the Budget.

Price is only the third physician to ever receive a nomination for the role and at first, was endorsed by major industry groups including the American Medical Association, who has since faced a backlash from members. Like many other nominees, Price has no experience of running a large agency.The role of HHS includes the management of 11 divisions, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Food and Drug Administration and National Institutes of Health. However, the Republicans feel he is uniquely positioned to oversee the overhaul of Obama’s health care reforms. Price has already introduced legislation to the House, with his proposal.

Price is not only leading the repeal efforts, he now oversees policies that could impact the health of the nation. CNN put together a great article on his views of 5 major health issues facing the industry today. Here is a summary:

  1. Abortion – anti-abortion and against funding of Planned Parenthood.
  2. Cancer – pro-Biden’s moonshot in practice, but will review the amount of funding.
  3. Mental Health – reform needed for better diagnosis of at-risk individuals.
  4. Guns – pro.
  5. Stem cell research – adamantly against the use of embryonic cells in research.

What is still unclear is the impact this new appointment will have on digital health. As of yet, he has not yet ventured too much opinion. However, he has not been overtly anti-digital, as he has been about many other issues.

Although little has changed in the healthcare industry, many still predict huge waves to come.

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