America's Health: Our Top Doctor's 2006 Report Card
Acting U.S. Surgeon General Kenneth Moritsugu weighs in on our health -- and his own.
Why is organ donation such an important issue to you?
Organ donation is a professional and personal issue. As a physician, I have
always been a proponent of organ and tissue donation. I have seen the
life-giving benefits it provides to other individuals. It became personal to me
when my wife was killed in an auto accident. Because she and I talked about it,
we had the privilege of donating her organs. Four people received solid organs
and had a longer life because of her. Four years later, my 22-year-old daughter
was struck by a car while crossing the street. Because of her gift, another
five people had a renewed life. Today, 93,000 people are on a waiting list for
a transplant. If we could only find enough donors, people who are generous
enough. When we are faced with the sudden death of a loved one, we are in the
depths of grief. But in our grief, we see that good can come of it, helping us
to remember our loved ones and what they were able to do as organ and tissue
When you put a human face in front of the issue, that makes a difference.
That is why I feel so passionate both professionally and personally about this
Do you believe there is a connection between environmental pollutants and certain cancers?
Certainly we have the science to show that. We learn more every day. We
don't know what causes certain cancers, and there is a relationship, positive
as well as negative, between health and environment. Look at the Surgeon
General report on environmental tobacco smoke -- it definitely does have an
impact on well-being of children as well as adults.
If more women die of lung cancer than breast cancer, then why do so few know this startling fact?
I think it goes back to the need to improve health literacy. I am sure there
is a discussion in doctors' and nurse practitioners' offices across the country
about the dangers of lung as well as breast cancer. But I'm not sure people [always] have
access to reliable information. A lot of info is on the web, but we have to
discriminate. We need to make sure those we serve understand what we are