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Obama Eyeing CNN's Gupta For Surgeon General?

Julie Rovner and Melissa Block Discuss A Possible Gupta Appointment

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta, seen here in a December 2007 file photo, is a practicing neurosurgeon and CNN's chief medical correspondent. He is reportedly in talks to be the Obama administration's surgeon general. Scott Gries/Getty Images hide caption

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Dr. Sanjay Gupta, seen here in a December 2007 file photo, is a practicing neurosurgeon and CNN's chief medical correspondent. He is reportedly in talks to be the Obama administration's surgeon general.

Scott Gries/Getty Images

The nation's next top doctor could be a very familiar face. CNN's chief medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, is reportedly in talks to become the Obama administration's surgeon general.

In addition to his journalistic duties, Gupta, 39, is also a practicing neurosurgeon and member of the staff and faculty at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta.

Sources on the Obama transition team declined to comment on the potential appointment, but CNN issued a statement saying that since Gupta first discussed the possibility of joining the Obama administration in November, "CNN has made sure that his on-air reporting has been on health and wellness matters and not on health care policy or any matters involving the new administration."

If nominated and confirmed by the Senate, it would not be Gupta's first foray into health policy. In 1997, during his medical education at the University of Michigan, Gupta spent a year as a White House fellow, writing speeches and working on other projects for then-first lady Hillary Clinton.

The job of surgeon general — which has little actual authority within the Department of Health and Human Services and mostly provides a bully pulpit — has had a checkered history. President Lyndon Johnson's surgeon general, Luther Terry, is credited with first warning Americans of the dangers of cigarette smoking. C. Everett Koop, who served under Ronald Reagan, came to office as an anti-abortion conservative darling, but soon became a champion of liberals by speaking out bluntly on the dangers of AIDS and HIV.

Surgeons general in recent years have encountered more difficulty, however. President Bill Clinton's first surgeon general, Joycelyn Elders, was fired after her frank talk about sex was seen as encouraging that children be taught masturbation.

And President George W. Bush's surgeon general, Richard Carmona, said after he left office that he was the victim of political interference by his superiors.

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