One day before thousands of scientists and their supporters marched in Washington and other cities in protest of Trump administration policies, the White House on Friday dismissed U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy.
The action came after Murthy, who has been vocal in his support of the value of childhood vaccines, refused to resign.
“Many have asked why I chose not to resign as surgeon general when I was asked to do so,” Murthy wrote in a Facebook post over the weekend. “My reason was simple: because I would never willfully abandon my commitment to my Commissioned Corps officers, to the American people and to all who have stood with me to build a healthier and more compassionate America.”
Calling his two years and four months of service “the honor of a lifetime,” Murthy thanked his colleagues, healthcare providers and others for their help on efforts to promote vaccines and healthy eating and to address public health threats including the opioid crisis, Ebola, the Zika virus, the Flint water crisis and healthcare shortages in rural communities that hamper patient access to care.
In a landmark report released last fall, Murthy called on doctors to screen for addictions, which he described as a bigger health threat than cancer. He also wrote a letter to America’s doctors asking them to pledge to reverse the country’s opioid epidemic.
Murthy's confirmation was originally held up over his views on gun violence, which he's called a public health threat.
Murthy's strong views on the benefits of vaccines (among other things, he's appeared in a video with Sesame Street character Elmo to explain how they work and why they're so important for children's health) don't necessarily align with those of President Donald Trump.
During his campaign, Trump voiced concerns about the safety and timing of vaccines, giving credence to the antivaccine movement. Before taking office, Trump met with vaccine skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who said he talked to Trump about chairing a committee to study vaccine safety.
Murthy's farewell post says kindness is a source of strength and urges America to become more open and connected.
“The world is locked in a struggle between love and fear,” Murthy wrote. “Choose love. Always. It is the world's oldest medicine. It is what we need to build a nation that is safe and strong for us and our children.”
Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, R.N., Murthy’s former deputy, will serve as acting surgeon general. She’s the right person for the job, Murthy said in the post.
“She has dedicated the past 30 years to our nation serving in the Army and in the U.S. Public Health Service. Her deep wealth of experience is matched only by the immense size of her heart. I know she will serve with distinction,” he wrote.