Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a medical correspondent for CNN and CBS News, may soon be leaving the news business to become President-elect Barack Obama's pick for surgeon general.
Gupta, a neurosurgeon and former White House fellow who worked with Hillary Clinton on health care policy in the late 90s, is said to be inclined to accept the job, although he is concerned about the pay cut he would have to take by trading a lucrative TV career for public service.
The news was first reported by the Washington Post Tuesday and comes on the heels of Gov. Bill Richardson's withdrawal as nominee for commerce secretary under the cloud of a federal investigation.
Gupta first met with Obama in November and the vetting process is currently under way, according to the Post.
Gupta was born in Michigan to Indian and Pakistani parents. He has become one of the biggest stars of medical journalism and would bring that celebrity status to the surgeon general job at a time when the Obama administration is endeavoring to pass sweeping health care reform.
CNN confirmed that Gupta was being considered for the job, and said that it had taken steps to insure his reporting was circumscribed by that fact.
"Since first learning that Dr. Gupta was under consideration for the U.S. surgeon general position, 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," CNN said in a statement Tuesday.
Reporting on the story on CNN's Situation Room Tuesday, John King said he had been told by the Obama transition team that Gupta would have a "very high profile" role, that would extend beyond the traditional job of selling health policy to the public to include helping set that policy.
King said the Obama transition team has been pitching Gupta on the job as something that would combine his hands-on experience--he is as practicing neurosurgeon--with his policy experience in the Clinton White House and his communications skills as a TV correspondent.
That combination could certainly be the right one for the sales job on Obama's comprehensive healthcare reform package, and that sale would still be a big part of the job.
"They have made the pitch to Dr. Gupta that he could help with the communications effort, travel the country, go on television, try to explain the arcane nature of health care policy to the American people much like he does on our network just about every day," said King.
Situation Room anchor Wolf Blitzer joked that Gupta might even be able to get Obama to stop smoking.
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