In the lull awaiting the appointment of a new surgeon general, I was hoping against hope for a psychiatrist. There seemed to be so many public health issues related to mental healthcare, such as gun control, political divisiveness, Ebola anxiety, the push for more integration of psychiatry and medicine, and national happiness.
After being away for three weeks for the holidays and trying to catch up on the news, I found out we didn't get a psychiatrist, but maybe the next best specialist. We got Vivek H. Murthy, a Boston internist who has a track record of addressing all those issues and more, even though he is only 37 years old. On top of that, he has an MBA, so he knows the business side of healthcare. He also knows technology, founding a software company to improve clinical trials of medication. In psychiatry, we have a kind of crisis with no new medications in the pipeline.
Dr. Murthy seems to exemplify one of our key medical ethics principles, which I think most mental healthcare disciplines also advocate. This is Section 7 of the Principles of Medical Ethics of the American Medical Association, adapted many years ago by the American Psychiatric Association. Section 7 states:
"A psychiatrist shall recognize a responsibility to participate in activities contributing to the improvement of the community and the betterment of public health.”
Despite the apparent silence of the medical and psychiatric media on this pick, what more promising surgeon general could the country have had? Come to think about it, aren't his qualities and advocacy what we want in the leaders of any of our organizations?
This, to me, is a great start for a mentally healthy and happy new year for our professions, which I wish for all.