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Vivek Murthy sworn in as surgeon general

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was sworn in on Wednesday.Andrew Harnik/AP

At his ceremonial swearing in as the nation’s 19th surgeon general on Wednesday, former Brigham and Women’s physican Dr. Vivek Murthy said his rise to the position was improbable but his priorities are ambitious.

“By any reasonable measure, I shouldn’t be standing here... My father is the son of a farmer in rural India. He was supposed to have been a farmer, as was I,” he said to a crowd of supporters that included Vice President Joe Biden. “Everyone in this arena... [is] a part of the story we write next. Each of us has a part to play in building a stronger and healthier America.”

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According to the surgeon general’s website, Murthy graduated from high school in Miami and then received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard. From there, he earned his medical degree and master’s in business adminisration at Yale University.

In addition to practicing internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he in 2009 started a nonprofit, Doctors for America, composed of thousands of doctors and medical students supporting President Obama’s healthcare initiatives.

Laying out his priorities in his remarks, Murthy said he was particularly concerned with promoting healthy living, raising awareness of mental illness, tackling childhood vaccinations, and curbing drug abuse.

“Today, we face a rising tide of diabetes, heart disease and cancer. We will lose nearly half a million lives this year to tobacco-related disease. Forty-two million people in our country struggle with mental illness,” said Murthy. “Heroin and prescription drug abuse ravage towns across America, and vaccine-preventable diseases we thought we had contained have come back with a vengeance because of fear and misinformation.”

Murthy’s position as surgeon general lasts four years.

“But for my grandfather’s insistence that his son get an education – even if that meant going into debt,” said Murthy in his remarks, “we might have never left that village to go out in the world and – as my grandfather also insisted – start fixing what needed fixing.”

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