Richard Carmona

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Richard Carmona
Richard carmona.jpg
17th Surgeon General of the United States
In office
August 5, 2002 – July 31, 2006
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byKenneth P. Moritsugu (acting)
Succeeded byKenneth P. Moritsugu (acting)
Personal details
Richard Henry Carmona

(1949-11-22) November 22, 1949 (age 73)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic (2011–present)
Other political
Independent (before 2011)
SpouseDiana Sanchez
EducationBronx Community College (AA)
University of California, San Francisco (BS, MD)
University of Arizona (MPH)
Military service
AllegianceUnited States of America
Branch/service United States Army
U.S. Public Health Service
RankUS Navy O9 infobox.svg Vice Admiral
UnitSeal of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.png Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
United States Army Special Forces CSIB.svg Army Special Forces
Battles/warsVietnam War

Richard Henry Carmona (born November 22, 1949)[1] is an American physician, nurse, police officer, public health administrator, and politician. He was a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and served as the seventeenth Surgeon General of the United States. Appointed by President George W. Bush in 2002, Carmona left office at the end of July 2006 upon the expiration of his term. After leaving office, Carmona was highly critical of the Bush administration for suppressing scientific findings which conflicted with the administration's ideological agenda.

In August 2006, Carmona returned home to Tucson, Arizona.[2] In November 2011, he announced he would seek the Democratic Party's nomination for United States Senate in the hopes of succeeding outgoing Republican Senator Jon Kyl, despite being registered as a political Independent.[3] He narrowly lost to Republican challenger Congressman Jeff Flake.[4]

Early life, education, and early career[edit]

Carmona was born in New York City, of Puerto Rican descent, and raised in Harlem. After dropping out of DeWitt Clinton High School at age 16, he enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1967.[5] While enlisted, he received his General Educational Development (GED), joined the United States Army Special Forces, became a combat-decorated Vietnam veteran, and began his career in medicine as a Special Forces Medic.

After leaving active duty, Carmona attended the Bronx Community College of the City University of New York, where he earned his associate of arts degree in nursing. In 1977, he graduated from the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), with a bachelor of science degree in biology and chemistry;[6] in 1979, he received his medical degree from UCSF, where he was awarded the gold-headed cane as the top graduate. In 1998, he earned a Master's degree in Public Health (M.P.H.) from the University of Arizona.[1]

Medical career[edit]

Carmona worked in various positions in the medical field including paramedic, registered nurse, and physician. He completed a surgical residency at UCSF and a National Institutes of Health-sponsored fellowship in trauma, burns, and critical care. Carmona is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons and certified in correctional health care and in quality assurance. Carmona has been Chairman of the Arizona Southern Regional Emergency Medical System, Chief Medical Officer, hospital CEO, public health officer, and chief executive officer of the Pima County health care system. In 1997, the Pima County system, which was in financial trouble before he was appointed, continued to lose millions of dollars and he resigned.[7] Carmona was not in control of the assets of the system but was held responsible for them.[8] Carmona is also a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona.

Law enforcement career[edit]

Carmona worked for the Pima County Sheriff's Department since 1986, eventually working his way up to deputy sheriff. He served as medical director of the county's police and fire departments. He was a peace officer leader of the SWAT division, with expertise in special operations and emergency preparedness, including weapons of mass destruction.[9]

In 1999, Carmona was off duty when he killed a motorist in a shootout at a Tucson intersection. Accounts of the incident vary, but Carmona says he spotted a driver assaulting another driver after a car accident and pulled over to help. Bystanders warned Carmona that the motorist was armed, and in the confrontation that ensued, which started by the motorist starting to place his gun down but quickly after grabs and shoots, grazing Carmona in the head, Carmona fired his weapon seven times, hitting the man three times and killing him.[10] In the police interview at the scene, Carmona told officials he did not try to administer first aid after shooting the victim. Instead, he returned to his car to reload his weapon.[11]

Surgeon General[edit]

Carmona releases a report on osteoporosis.


President Bush nominated Carmona to become the 17th Surgeon General of the United States in March 2002. During the nomination process, Carmona was questioned about his management style and the amount of time it took him to become board-certified in his field. Carmona described himself as an "agent of change" willing to question the status quo, but that he always treated "patients, staff, and co-workers with respect." Senators on both sides of the aisle praised Carmona's qualifications and supported his nomination; he was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 23, 2002 by a vote of 98–0.[12][13][14]

Secondhand smoke[edit]

In 2006, Carmona released a landmark Surgeon General's report on the health effects of secondhand smoke.[15] Carmona's report underlined the risks of secondhand smoke exposure, stating: "The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard."[16] The report encouraged the adoption of indoor smoking bans and noted that such bans did not appear to have a harmful economic effect on bars and restaurants. After leaving office, Carmona testified before Congress that the Bush Administration had tried for years to "water down" his findings on the dangers of secondhand smoke, and had pressured him not to testify in the tobacco industry's racketeering trial.[17]

In earlier testimony before the U.S. Congress, Carmona stated that he would not object to a ban on all tobacco products "if Congress chose to go that way." The Bush Administration distanced itself from this statement.[18]

Post-Surgeon General career[edit]

Carmona is currently vice chairman of the Canyon Ranch resort and spa company, president of the non-profit Canyon Ranch Institute, and a professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health at the University of Arizona. He is currently in-charge of Covid-19 response at the University of Arizona.[19] On June 16, 2010, Ross University School of Medicine named Carmona to its Board of Trustees.[20]

In 2006, Republicans attempted to recruit Carmona to run for Congress in Arizona's 8th congressional district, but he declined.[21]

On October 25, 2013 Carmona joined the Herbalife Board of Directors. Dr. Carmona commented, "As a scientist and medical professional, I was first attracted by the depth and breadth of Herbalife's commitment to excellence in nutrition science. As a business person, my due diligence showed me a company of integrity with a good business plan. As the son of poor emigrant parents, I am elated to see the opportunities Herbalife offers to families in health-disparate and economically underserved communities."[22]

On September 6, 2021 Carmona joined the McKesson Board of Directors as a new independent director, as well as the Board of Directors Compensation and Compliance Committees. [23]

Criticism of Bush administration[edit]

On July 10, 2007, Carmona, along with former Surgeons General C. Everett Koop and David Satcher, testified before the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform about political and ideological interference with the Surgeon General's mission. Carmona accused the Bush Administration of preventing him from speaking out on certain public health issues such as embryonic stem cell research, global climate change,[24] emergency contraception, and abstinence-only sex education, where the Administration's political stance conflicted with scientific and medical opinion.[25]

Carmona also testified that the Bush Administration had attempted for years to "water down" his report on the dangers of secondhand smoke and pressured him not to testify in the tobacco industry's racketeering trial: "Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried."[26][27] According to Carmona, he was even ordered not to attend the Special Olympics because the event was sponsored by the Kennedy family, and was told to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches.[17] The Washington Post subsequently identified William R. Steiger as the Bush Administration official who had blocked release of Carmona's report on global health because it conflicted with the Administration's political priorities.[28]

Carmona said that his predecessors as Surgeon General had told him, "We have never seen it as partisan, as malicious, as vindictive, as mean-spirited as it is today, and you clearly have worse than anyone's had."[26] Koop's testimony indicated that he had been subject to less political pressure than his successors:[29][30] President Reagan was pressed by his officials to fire him, but Reagan refused.[30] Moreover, Koop indicated that each of his successors had had less access to the Secretary of Health and Human Services than he had: Satcher had been granted less access than him, and "Dr. Carmona was treated with even less respect than Dr. Satcher."[30]

2012 U.S. Senate election[edit]

Carmona campaigning with former President Bill Clinton

Carmona was the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate in Arizona in the race to replace retiring Republican Senator Jon Kyl.[31][32] Carmona said that he would bring his experience in science and medicine to the Senate, which will inform his analytical approach to the issues. He has been critical of politicians like Todd Akin and said that health issues should not be politicized.[33]

On November 6, 2012, he lost to Republican challenger Jeff Flake.[4]

Electoral history[edit]

United States Senate election in Arizona, 2012
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Jeff Flake 1,104,457 49.2% -4.1%
Democratic Richard Carmona 1,036,542 46.2% +2.7%
Libertarian Marc J. Victor 102,109 4.6% +1.4%
N/A write-in 2,501 0.1% nil
Majority 67,915 3.0% -6.8%
Turnout 2,245,609 100.0%

Personal life[edit]

Carmona is married to Diana Sanchez. They have two daughters, two sons, two granddaughters, and two grandsons. Carmona resides in Tucson, Arizona.[1]

Awards and decorations[edit]

Awards and decorations as depicted on Vice Admiral Carmona's United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps' uniform during his tenure as Surgeon General of the United States.

Combat Medical Badge, 1st award.svg
US Army Airborne basic parachutist badge.gif
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Badge Combat Medical Badge
Badge U.S. Army Parachutist Badge
1st row Bronze Star Medal Purple Heart (with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster)
2nd row Presidential Unit Citation Army Meritorious Unit Commendation Army Good Conduct Medal
3rd row National Defense Service Medal Vietnam Service Medal Public Health Service Regular Corps Ribbon
4th row Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
5th row Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service Medal Association of Military Surgeons of the United States Medal Reserve Officers Association Medal
SpecialForces Badge.svg
United States Army Special Forces SSI (1958-2015).png
Badge U.S. Army 1st Special Forces (Airborne) Distinctive Unit Insignia
Badge Army of the Republic of Vietnam Parachutist Badge
Badge 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Shoulder sleeve insignia
Special Forces Tab Cloth.jpg|USPHSCC Surgeon General Badge.png|Office of HHS ID Badge.png
Badges Special Forces Tab Surgeon General (SG) Badge U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Identification Badge

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Phoenix Arizona Election Questionnaire for Congress, Richard Carmona". AZ Central. Retrieved 24 October 2012.
  2. ^ Allen, Paul L. (3 August 2006). "Tucson proud Richard Carmona one of its own". Tucson Citizen. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  3. ^ "Former surgeon general in Bush administration will run as a Democratic in Senate race". The Washington Post. 10 November 2011. Retrieved 13 November 2011.[dead link]
  4. ^ a b Phillip, Abby (6 November 2012). "Jeff Flake Wins Arizona Senate Race". OTUS. ABC News. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
  5. ^ Burger, Timothy J. "Prez Taps Maverick for Surgeon General"[permanent dead link], Daily News, March 27, 2002. Accessed September 14, 2009. "Carmona, 52, who dropped out of Dewitt Clinton High School in Harlem at 16 and later joined the Army, got a GED and was a Green Beret in Vietnam, where he was wounded twice."
  6. ^ "Richard Carmona". 15 July 2014. Retrieved 4 May 2017.
  7. ^ Frank, Mitch (March 31, 2002). "The Doctor Is Armed". Time. Archived from the original on October 9, 2012.
  8. ^ "Who is Dr. Richard Carmona?". Time. 17 July 2002. Archived from the original on 7 March 2013.
  9. ^ Pear, Robert (March 27, 2002). "Man in the News; A Man of Many Professions – Richard Henry Carmona". The New York Times.
  10. ^ Frank, Mitch (31 March 2002). "The Doctor Is Armed". Retrieved 9 July 2022.
  11. ^ "Nominee for surgeon general criticized". The Vindicator. July 9, 2002.
  12. ^ Kranish, Michael (July 10, 2002). "Bush Nominee Defends Past Carmona Expected To Get Health Post". Boston Globe.
  13. ^ Meckler, Laura (July 9, 2002). "Surgeon general nominee defends record". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  14. ^ "Motion to Invoke Cloture on the Nomination of Richard H. Carmona, to be Surgeon General". U.S. Senate: Legislation & Records. July 23, 2002. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  15. ^ The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Issued June 27, 2006; accessed March 21, 2008.
  16. ^ Neergaard, Lauran (2006-06-28). "Surgeon General: Beware Secondhand Smoke". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 2008-03-03.
  17. ^ a b Doyle, Leonard (2007-07-13). "White House 'gagged' Surgeon General". Politics. New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 2007-07-13.
  18. ^ Kaufman, Marc (2003-06-04). "Surgeon General Favors Tobacco Ban". Nation. Washington Post. Surgeon General Richard Carmona said yesterday that he supports the banning of tobacco products – the first time that the government's top doctor and public health advocate has made such a strong statement about the historically contentious subject.
  19. ^ "Professor, former surgeon general to run incident command center for UA return". Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  20. ^ "Ross University Names 17th Surgeon General to its Board of Trustees". Ross University. June 16, 2010. Archived from the original on June 20, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2012.
  21. ^ Gonzales, Nathan L. (February 7, 2006). "Candidates Battle for Cash in House Open Seats". CQ Roll Call. Retrieved April 28, 2017.
  22. ^ BusinessWire (October 28, 2013). "Herbalife Announces Appointment of Dr. Richard H. Carmona – 17th Surgeon General of the United States (2002–2006) – to Board of Directors". Herbalife. Retrieved 2015-02-28. {{cite web}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  23. ^ McKesson (November 1, 2021). "McKesson Q2 FY22 Earnings Press Release" (PDF). McKesson. Retrieved 2021-11-01.
  24. ^ Rovner, Julie (2007-07-10). "Ex-Surgeon General Says Administration Interfered". Politics. NPR. Retrieved 2007-07-12. He recalled a meeting where senior White House officials talked about global warming as a liberal cause with no merit.
  25. ^ Harris, Gardiner (July 10, 2007). "White House Is Accused of Putting Politics Over Science". New York Times.
  26. ^ a b Dunham, Will (2007-07-10). "Former Bush surgeon general says he was muzzled". Reuters. 'Anything that doesn't fit into the political appointees' ideological, theological or political agenda is ignored, marginalized or simply buried'
  27. ^ Beckerman, Gal (2007-07-11). "Surgeon General's Warning: Politics always trumps science in the Bush White House". The Kicker. Columbia Journalism Review. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 'The problem with this approach is that in public health, as in a democracy, there is nothing worse than ignoring science or marginalizing the voice of science for reasons driven by changing political winds.'
  28. ^ Bush Aide Blocked Report, Christopher Lee and Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post, July 29, 2007.
  29. ^ "Former Surgeon Generals Speak Out About Political Interference". National Coalition Against Censorship. July 11, 2007. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  30. ^ a b c Freking, Kevin (July 11, 2007). "Carmona Says Bush Officials Muzzled Him". The Washington Post. The Associated Press. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
  31. ^ Sullivan, Sean (November 10, 2011). "Carmona Will Run in Arizona". National Journal. Archived from the original on November 12, 2011. Retrieved November 10, 2011.
  32. ^ Nowicki, Dan (March 28, 2012). "Rival out, path clear for Carmona in Democrat race". The Arizona Republic.
  33. ^ "Meet Our Candidates: Dr. Richard Carmona for U.S. Senator". October 4, 2012. Retrieved October 7, 2012.

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Surgeon General of the United States
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Arizona
(Class 1)

Succeeded by