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Ala. doctor could bring attention to moribund post

July 14, 2009
by MIKE STOBBE
Associated Press

ATLANTA (AP) - The U.S. Surgeon General has been described as "the nation's doctor," a "national nanny" and the person who puts warning labels on cigarette packs. But lately, the position has been mostly called something else: invisible...

"You saw a surgeon general change the way our nation and the world dealt with an infectious disease," said Dr. Richard Carmona, who was surgeon general from 2002 through 2006.

Carmona, largely unknown, left office in 2006 when President Bush did not appoint him to a second term. In 2007, he testified to Congress that administration officials muzzled him.

Bills were introduced in Congress to prevent future political meddling, giving the surgeon general a budget and staff outside the control of the Health and Human Services Department. The bills died, however.

Last year, both the Institute of Medicine and Trust for America's Health called for a more prominent and powerful role for the surgeon general.

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