HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Searching for a New Surgeon General

McClatchy News reports that Dr. James W. Holsinger is unlikely to be the next Surgeon General.  Halimah Abdullah writes,

Sen. Jim Bunning, one of Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr.'s staunchest supporters in his bid to become U.S. surgeon general, suggested Tuesday that the physician's quest for the nation's top medical post is at an end.  During a telephone press conference Tuesday, Bunning said he doubts Holsinger's nomination will move forward. Bunning cited the Democratic leadership's blockage of several Bush administration-backed judicial appointments -- a move that has rankled both of Kentucky's senators. . . .   Meanwhile, both the White House and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Holsinger's nomination is still alive. . . .

Holsinger served as Gov. Ernie Fletcher's secretary for health and family services from 2003 through 2005, was a professor and chancellor of the University of Kentucky's medical center for nine years in addition to other academic and administrative medical school posts across the country, and served for 26 years in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He also served for more than 30 years in the U.S. Army Reserve.  He has a master's degree in biblical studies from Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore. He obtained his medical degree in 1964 and a doctorate in anatomy in 1968, both from Duke University. . . .

From the moment his name emerged as a potential U.S. surgeon general, Holsinger's nomination was rife with controversy. Last year, Holsinger faced a firestorm of criticism from gay rights groups, the National Organization for Women, the American Public Health Association and some public health experts for a Methodist church paper he wrote in 1991 titled "Pathophysiology of Male Homosexuality," which described same-sex intercourse as incompatible with Christian teaching.

Holsinger distanced himself from the paper during a July Senate hearing, saying the comments don't reflect his current views. However, Senate Democrats refused to move forward with a confirmation until Holsinger completed written responses to questions posed by members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Democrats stayed in session over December's holiday break to prevent President Bush from naming the physician to the post in a recess appointment.

Dr. Steven Galson, a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service, was named acting surgeon general last fall. . . .

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