MB resident up for surgeon general

by Carley Dryden
Published January 15, 2009

Charles Rosen isn’t banking on the job promotion.
Not that the economy has anything to do with it. Nor do his bosses at UC-Irvine. The final decision lies solely in the hands of our next president.
The orthopedic surgeon and 20-year Manhattan Beach resident is on the short list for surgeon general, a position likely to be confirmed sometime this week. The surgeon general heads the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) and is the federal government’s leading spokesperson on public health issues.
Rosen said he was shocked and humbled to even be considered, let alone become one of three finalists. Though it’s been widely reported that the job has been offered to CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the Obama administration has not made an official announcement. “People close to the transition team” advised him that he is a finalist, Rosen said.
Rosen believes he attracted the interest of the Obama administration after he testified before the U.S. Senate subcommittee on aging last February. The committee was conducting a hearing on the Physician Payment Sunshine Act, which involves financial disclosure between physicians and medical device companies. Rosen is an outspoken advocate for medical ethics, a passion which nearly cost him his job at UCI two years ago.
Rosen had discovered flawed research data involving a spinal disc replacement approved by the FDA in 2004. He subsequently learned that the authors of many studies on medical devices are paid to conduct the studies by the devices’ manufacturers.
“If the thing did well, they would do well,” he said. “It struck me that this was what medicine is now and it had to change.”
In 2006, Rosen founded the Association for Ethics in Spine Surgery, a forum for spinal surgery research, free of medical manufacturers’ influence. Rosen’s UCI co-workers, who felt threatened by his work, made a failed attempt to have him dismissed by the hospital.
Hundreds of surgeons have since joined Rosen’s organization, which is now called Association for Ethics in Medicine. Members agree not to accept money or perks from any company whose products they use. Rosen also founded ethicaldoctor.org, a searchable database that identifies surgeons who accept medical industry payment.
He spoke on the subject of evidence-based medicine, based solely on the strength of data, when he addressed the Senate last year.
Rosen said it would be hard for his family, which includes a wife and three children, to leave his Manhattan Beach home, if even for just a year.
“I feel very close to Manhattan Beach,” he said. “I know everybody on my block…It’s such a small-town feeling, very unusual, very special.”
For now, Rosen waits patiently for the call.
“It was a long shot that anyone was bringing it up,” he said. “I’m not making any plans, but if it happens, then I’ll deal with it gladly.” ER