The White House is close to naming David Satcher, M.D., to be both U.S. surgeon general and the assistant secretary for health, officially consolidating the two positions for the first time since the Carter administration.
"Right now that is the thinking of the White House," said an HHS spokesman. He also confirmed that Satcher was the only candidate under active consideration.
Satcher is the director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, a position he has held since November 1993. He is a family practice doctor (See chart).
Henry Foster, M.D., was the most recent choice of the Clinton administration for the post, and like Satcher, was president of Meharry Medical College.
Foster, a gynecologist, saw his nomination derailed when it was revealed that he had performed a number of abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. His name was withdrawn from nomination for the surgeon general's opening in 1995 and since then, Foster has served as senior adviser to the president on teen pregnancy and youth issues.
Following Foster's failed nomination, the surgeon general position has been occupied by a number of acting surgeons general, most recently, Audrey Manley, M.D.
The surgeon general post has been a source of tension between the Clinton administration and congressional Republicans. Joycelyn Elders, M.D., was forced to resign the post in 1994 after making a number of controversial remarks about masturbation and legalizing drugs. Because of the experiences with Elders and Foster, it is likely that Satcher will be closely scrutinized by Senate Republicans.
However, Satcher should be a known commodity, experiencing confirmation hearings when he took the CDC post.
Satcher would take over the assistant secretary for health position last held by Philip Lee, M.D., who retired last year.