Hearing of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions on Nomination of Dr. James Holsinger to be U.S. Surgeon General

Statement

By:  Mitch McConnell
Date: July 12, 2007
Location: Washington, DC

Senator McConnell's Testimony

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday introduced Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., the President's nominee to be U.S. Surgeon General, before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. His remarks follow:

"It is my distinct pleasure today to introduce Dr. James W. Holsinger Jr., the President's nominee to be Surgeon General of the United States. During his inspiring and impressive career: Dr. Holsinger has led the nation's largest health-care system, the Commonwealth of Kentucky's health-care system, and the medical center of Kentucky's flagship university.

"As surgeon general, Dr. Holsinger would be the government's leading spokesperson for public health. I've come to know Dr. Holsinger well. He is an outstanding individual with a lifetime of public service, and I can't think of a finer choice for this office.

"Certainly no one is prouder today than Dr. Holsinger's wife, Dr. Barbara Craig Holsinger, and their daughters Anna, Ruth, Sarah and Rachel. His mother, Ruth Holsinger, and his mother-in-law, Betty Craig, are here as well. Their pride can only grow as he embarks on his greatest role yet in public service.

"Dr. Holsinger is currently a professor at the University of Kentucky, and teaches at both the College of Public Health and the College of Medicine. From 1994 to 2003, he served as Chancellor of the University of Kentucky A.B. Chandler Medical Center. In that role, he oversaw several graduate schools and two hospitals.

"If Dr. Holsinger has the bedside manner of a Kentucky doctor, he also has the skill and the experience to lead a large agency—as the surgeon general must, by virtue of heading up the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and its 6,000 members.

"By appointment of the governor, Dr. Holsinger served as Kentucky's Secretary of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services from 2003 to 2005. As secretary, he oversaw Kentucky's Public Health system. He modernized the state's $5 billion Medicaid program that serves hundreds of thousands of Kentuckians.

"And Dr. Holsinger served for over 25 years with the Department of Veterans Affairs, ultimately as chief medical director and undersecretary for health of the Veterans Health Administration. As chief medical director, Dr. Holsinger ran the country's largest health-care system, serving over 26 million veterans in all 50 states.

"Dr. Holsinger also served as director of the VA Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1993, he was awarded the Surgeon General's Medallion for exceptional achievement to the cause of public health and medicine.

"He earned his M.D. and a Ph.D. in anatomy at Duke University, and as a retired Major General in the U.S. Army Reserve, surely must have only one reservation about taking this job—he will have to wear a Navy uniform.

"If confirmed, Dr. Holsinger will be the nation's 18th surgeon general—and the first from Kentucky. As surgeon general, he will focus on educating parents and children about the risks of childhood obesity.

"Scores of people who have worked with him throughout his career can attest to his commitment to helping people live longer, better and healthier lives.

"My fellow senators, there can be no debate on the breadth or depth of Dr. Holsinger's experience in medicine and public health.

"Being surgeon general is a bit like being a doctor with a very large stethoscope: The office gives its occupant the power to recognize health trends across America, and a bully pulpit to dispense health information for all.

"The nomination of Dr. James Holsinger is the right prescription to help America confront today's health challenges. I have every confidence he will succeed.

"I appreciate this committee's expeditious handling of his nomination, and I look forward to his confirmation. Thank you for allowing me to testify on his behalf."