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Surgeon general visits UA

JOEY HESLINGA/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Dr. Richard Carmona, Surgeon General of the United States, answered questions at an open forum following his talk at Gallagher Theater on Friday. Carmona, a UA alumnus, covered such topics as health care education and obesity in America.
By Monica Warren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 11, 2004
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U.S. Surgeon General and UA alumnus Richard Carmona told public health students and faculty Friday that the deadly diseases which afflict millions of people can best be avoided by early prevention instead of relying on science.

More than 100 students, faculty members and guests of the Mel and Enid Zuckerman Arizona College of Public Health gathered in Gallagher Theater to hear Carmona's speech titled "Plagues, Prevention and Politics: The Life of the Surgeon General."

He also spoke about the Bush administration and terrorism.

Carmona spoke about the challenges he faces every day as the country's top doctor. He said the main job of his office is "to protect and maintain the health, safety and security of the nation."

"A lot of our health is within our own grasp," Carmona said. "Far more people, communities and societies have been saved by prudent public health than by science."

Carmona said the key to ending diseases that result from smoking and obesity is not through scientific advances, but through preventative measures, such as exercise and healthy eating.

He said most diseases that afflict Americans today are preventable, with 750,000 Americans dying from tobacco- and obesity-related diseases each year. As a "treatment oriented society," people wait for the latest policies and scientific advances instead of employing preventative measures, he said.

Carmona said he often jokes with his peers that their greatest plague might be politics because it is ultimately the elected politicians who make public health policies, regardless of his recommendations.

"The good news is in a democratic society you have a remedy," he said. "It's called voting."

Since Sept.11, 2001, national security and preparedness have been emphasized more, Carmona said. He said his office and the rest of the national government are working hard to stay a step or two ahead of any threats to national safety. He said the United States is still learning to live with the constant threat of terrorism, citing the discovery of anthrax following Sept. 11, 2001, as an example.

"This is a relatively small event that brought the U.S. to its knees for a short amount of time," Carmona said.

Another serious issue facing the American people is that the country's minority populations are disproportionately affected by many diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and HIV/AIDS, Carmona said.

Following his speech, Carmona answered questions from the audience about childhood obesity, the shortage of flu vaccines and secondhand smoke.

A graduate from the Mel and Enid Zuckerman Arizona College of Public Health in 1998, Carmona was a professor of surgery, public health and family and community medicine at the UA before he was appointed Surgeon General in 2002.

Vicki Gaubeca, assistant director of Public Affairs and Community Outreach for the Mel and Enid Zuckerman Arizona College of Public Health, said this is the second time that Carmona has returned to the UA to speak since being named Surgeon General, the first time was about a year and a half ago.

Lisa Fong, a first-year public health graduate student, said the issues Carmona raised were interesting and important to answer.

"For me, being new here, it showed where a public health career can lead and what you can do in the areas of preventative medicine," she said.

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