For Obama's Surgeon General, Elders Looks Past Masturbation to National Healthcare

Jocelyn Elders, the former surgeon general, thinks Sanjay Gupta is an excellent communicator.

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By Paul Bedard, Washington Whispers

Sanjay Gupta, CNN's on-air doctor now bidding to become President Obama's U.S. surgeon general, has won the endorsement of the most controversial doctor to hold that position: Jocelyn Elders. The former surgeon general who supported teen masturbation and condom use calls the TV doctor an excellent communicator. "This country needs a surgeon general," she told our Suzi Parker. "It needs someone to be able to stand up and be an advocate for the people of this country. You aren't the Congress's surgeon general. You aren't the president's surgeon general. You're the people's surgeon general."

With Gupta, she says, "I think he understands the problems." What's more, Elders, an advocate for universal healthcare, dismisses critics, saying Gupta can learn on the job. "He has enough well-trained, well-qualified public health people to teach him the things he needs to do the job."

She's also watching who ends up at the Department of Health and Human Services. "It makes me mad every time they say they are going to put a lawyer over Health and Human Services." Note to Obama: She wouldn't approve of putting Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius there, as reported. "I feel there are many roles to fill in government, and I feel this is a health role. They need to hear about health and human services from a health provider's perspective. I love lawyers. They do a wonderful job. I love politicians. They probably do a wonderful job. But I think a health professional should be the head of health and human services," she says.

Elders is hoping Obama can pass universal healthcare. "Mr. Obama has an awful lot of things on his plate, and I think he is doing a fantastic job, and I hope he can continue to do that," she says. "Universal access to healthcare for all of our people should be a right, not a privilege. Businesses and everyone should be for it. We'd have better workers, healthier workers. They'd be more likely to stay on the job and do a better job. Whatever you do in life, you can do it better if you're healthier. We don't have a healthcare system; we have a very good sick-care system."

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