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Surgeon General Nominee Gets Grilling

Holsinger Tells Senators He Won't Let Political Pressure Influence His Scientific Views
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Opposition and Support continued...

Holsinger, who is from Kentucky, served a stint as the chief medical director of the Veterans Administration and was briefly Kentucky's top government health official. He was also chancellor of the University of Kentucky Medical Center from 1994 to 2003.

"There can be no debate on the breadth or depth of Dr. Holsinger's experience in medicine and public health," said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who testified in support of the nominee.

Holsinger told lawmakers that his top three priorities as surgeon general would be curbing smoking, combating childhood obesity, and boosting the disaster-response capacity of the U.S. Public Health Service. He said he favors higher cigarette taxes as a way to cut down on smoking, a view not necessarily popular in tobacco-growing Kentucky.

Surgeon generals have little executive authority in the government. But they command the public's attention on a wide range of health issues.

A 1964 report on smoking and health produced by then-Surgeon General Luther L. Terry, MD, is credited with helping to cut smoking rates in the U.S.

On Thursday, Holsinger appeared to surprise lawmakers when he said he would support laws banning consumer advertising of prescription drugs as a way to help curb medical costs.

"It puts an unconscionable pressure on America's physicians to prescribe the blue pill or the pink pill or whatever the pill of the month might be, and I think that we have done a disservice to our physicians by allowing that to occur," he said.

Holsinger also said he supports White House limits on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.

The committee that held the hearing is expected to vote on the Holsinger's nomination sometime this summer.

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