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BREAKING: Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy announced as fall 2023 Commencement speaker

Murthy served as surgeon general under both Obama and Biden

United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy was announced as American University’s fall 2023 Commencement speaker in a Tuesday press release from the University.

Murthy was born in Yorkshire, England in 1977 to immigrants from India. He received his bachelor’s degree in biochemical sciences from Harvard University and his medical doctorate and MBA from Yale University. 

As an undergraduate, Murthy co-founded VISIONS Worldwide, a nonprofit organization focused on HIV education in the U.S. and India. He completed his medical residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and founded Doctors for America and served as its president for eight years. 

President Barack Obama appointed Murthy in 2011 to serve on the Presidential Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, which AU President Sylvia Burwell later ran as secretary.

“Dr. Murthy and I served together at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Obama administration, so I know firsthand the dedication, skill, and compassion that drives his work as our nation’s top doctor,” Burwell said in the press release. “From his important work on the loneliness epidemic, and its impact on college-age youth in particular, to his service as a key advisor to President Biden's COVID-19 pandemic response operation, Dr. Murthy is a true changemaker who will inspire our graduates as they begin their own impactful pursuits.”

In 2013, Obama nominated Murthy for surgeon general but faced resistance from senators over comments he made declaring gun violence a public health threat. Still, he was approved by the Senate in 2014 with a 51-43 vote. 

During his first term as surgeon general, Murthy led the country through the Ebola and Zika viruses, the Flint Michigan water crisis and the beginnings of the opioid epidemic. He was relieved of his position three months after former President Donald Trump took office in 2017.

On Dec. 3, 2020, then-President-elect Joe Biden nominated Murthy for a second term as surgeon general. He was confirmed on March 23, 2021, by a vote of 57–43.

“I am honored to celebrate this important milestone with American University’s graduates this year,” Murthy said in the press release. “Commencement serves as a unique moment for graduates to reflect on the past and look forward to the future they want to build. As graduates begin their next chapter, I hope this time with peers, professors, and loved ones is filled with pride and joy.”

Commencement ceremonies will take place in Bender Arena on Dec. 17, with the ceremony for the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Public Affairs, School of Communication and Washington College of Law taking place at 9 a.m., and the ceremony for the Kogod School of Business, School of International Service, School of Education and Office of Professional Studies taking place at 1:30 p.m.

This article was edited by Abigail Hatting, Jordan Young and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks. 

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