Q&A – What Florida’s Surgeon General Is Responsible For Doing
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Today’s entry: I can never remember a state’s Surgeon General receiving as much attention as the press is giving to Dr. Ladapo. Two questions for you, one of which is your opinion. What is the actual job responsibility of the state’s Surgeon General? Do you think the backlash about Ladapo is more about news outlets trying to get DeSantis than it is about his policy ideas?
Bottom Line: There’s no doubt that any recent state Surgeon General candidate has received the kind of media attention that Dr. Joseph Ladapo has. And of course, almost all of the attention has been negatively portrayed. That’s of course because Dr. Ladapo is an outspoken critic of mask and vaccine mandates and perhaps to the root of one of your questions...because of Governor DeSantis. I’ll come back around to this dynamic but first let’s address what the lawful role of the state’s Surgeon General is.
Under law, Florida’s Surgeon General is the Florida Department of Health’s chief administrator. That means the person holding the post is responsible for all of the day-to-day operations of the FDOH. This is similar to the role of other department heads in the state, a la Florida’s Education Commissioner as it pertains to the Florida Department of Education. This is to say that the state’s Surgeon General is far from a figurehead and is very much a critical cog for helping establish and carry out health policy for the state of Florida. Specific directives for the state’s surgeon general include these:
- Being the state’s leading advocate for wellness and disease prevention in Florida.
- Performing all administrative activities required to direct, supervise, and carry out the day-to-day duties of the Department as authorized by law or by the Governor and Cabinet acting as the head of the agency.
- Conducting planning and budgeting activities.
- Entering contracts and other agreements as authorized by law.
- Carrying out rulemaking and formal hearing responsibilities.
- Designating an official to accept service of process on behalf of the Department.
Clearly, it’s a highly consequential post, especially in the context of the pandemic. That’s also why the position requires Senate confirmation – which is precisely where we are in the process. The recent dust up over Dr. Ladapo refusing to wear a mask while visiting with Senator Tina Polsky was part of the interview process in advance of a Senate confirmation vote. Clearly Polsky, and others, believe that Ladapo’s refusal to wear a mask is a disqualifying decision for the person who’d be running the state’s health department. You’re welcome to view it as you see fit. What hasn’t been discussed well, or even credibly, is Dr. Ladapo’s background.
Nigerian-born Joseph Ladapo immigrated to the United States at the age of five. An outstanding student through grade-school he attended Wake Forest earning a Bachelor’s in Chemistry prior to being accepted into Harvard’s Medical School where he earned his medical degree. Prior to being tabbed to be Florida’s Surgeon General by Governor DeSantis, he held dual roles. He practiced medicine at NYU’s School of Medicine while serving as a researcher at UCLA’s Medical Center. During the pandemic he made it known that he thought a disproportionate amount of effort was being applied to policies which didn’t promote good health. He made it known that he viewed good personal health decisions as being more important than lockdowns (and other like restrictions). More recently he’d been critical of what he believed was a disproportionate public policy emphasis on COVID-19 vaccines, as opposed to personal health measures.
In context, it’s easy to see why Dr. Ladopo has had plenty of critics, as his preferred public policy approach runs counter to the Fauci-led establishment guidance.