- - Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Washington Times’ recent editorial “Ebola crisis needs more than a bureaucrat czar” (Web, Oct. 19) missed the mark in several ways, though the criticism of the appointment of a Democratic political operative as this country’s “Ebola czar” is on target.

First, I disagree with the assertion that the surgeon general is “more a nanny than a general, more public-relations flack for the administration than a surgeon.” If you think Surgeon General Luther Terry, who issued the first “Report on Smoking and Health” 50 years ago, was being a “nanny,” then we have different definitions of “nanny.” Adult smoking rates have declined in the past 50 years from 42 percent to 12 percent, saving hundreds of thousands of lives each year. If you think that reducing the incidence of a disease such as skin cancer (melanoma), which kills 9,000 Americans every year and costs $8.1 billion to treat, constitutes being a “nanny” then we again define that word differently.

Pointing out avoidable health risks to the American public is a worthy undertaking for any surgeon general and does not by any stretch of the imagination fall into the category of what one might term “nannyism.” Not all surgeons general have been as effective as Terry, but the blanket indictment of the men and women who have held that office since 1889 is unworthy of a newspaper such as The Washington Times.

As for the current surgeon general and his response to Ebola, I have only to remind readers that 65 of the officers under his command in the Public Health Service are being deployed to Liberia where they, not personnel of the Department of Defense, will be the only U.S. government medical personnel directly treating Liberians with Ebola. These officers, all volunteers, are risking their lives to help end the Ebola epidemic in West Africa before it can spread here in numbers greater than ones and twos. This is the leadership of acting Surgeon General Boris Lushniak, who believes that you can fight lung cancer, skin cancer and Ebola at the same time.


Executive director

Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service


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