The Next Surgeon General

What should  the US Surgeon General be like?

As Donald Trump prepares to assume the presidency, media outlets are aflutter with his nominees for Cabinet positions, and office seekers are glued to telephones calling for Executive Branch jobs. Amidst the tumult, President-elect Trump should soon consider another job that must be filled. It is less powerful than many cabinet positions, but often high profile. It deals not with bombs or buildings but with health and humanity. With Ebola just behind us, and who-knows-what disease disaster just ahead of us, this job is crucial. Donald Trump must select the next Surgeon General (SG) of the United States.

C. Everett Koop (1916-2013, SG 1982-1989) had recently retired as the Surgeon General when I graduated from the Loma Linda University School of Medicine in 1991. He was our commencement speaker, and his words shaped my thoughts as a young doctor. This article will review the job of Surgeon General, and consider some attributes that have made recent Surgeons General successful. Many have served as acting Surgeon General since the post tends to be low on Presidential appointment priority lists, but we will only consider the appointed office holders here.

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The War of 1812

In many ways a forgotten war, the War of 1812 was America’s first test as a nation. Had it ended differently, we might have been colonies again. 

Reenactors and Living Historians in 2013 reveled in the 150th anniversary of Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Vicksburg, some of the most monumental battles of the American Civil War. Thousands of participants, tens of thousands of spectators, and merchants of all kinds have gathered to relive these events that shaped our nation and its people forever.

2013 and 2014 have seen anniversaries of other battles from an earlier war which has also shaped American History, the War of 1812. Though overshadowed by its later, longer and bloodier cousin, the War of 1812 was the first major military test of new United States, the only conflict in our history in which a foreign power invaded our states, and the only one in which our capital, Washington DC, was captured. The War of 1812 is famous for Fort McHenry’s valiant stand against the British fleet, the setting of Francis Scott Key’s Star Spangled Banner, and for Andrew Jackson’s (Old Hickory) decimation of the British forces at the Battle of New Orleans.

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