Richard Carmona

Richard Carmona
Richard Carmona
Vice Admiral Richard Carmona, USPHS
Surgeon General of the United States
17th Surgeon General of the United States
In office
August 5, 2002 – July 31, 2006
President George W. Bush
Preceded by David Satcher
Succeeded by Regina Benjamin
Personal details
Born November 22, 1949 (1949-11-22) (age 62)
New York, New York, USA
Political party Independent[1]
Residence Tucson, Arizona, USA

Richard Henry Carmona (born November 22, 1949) is an American physician, 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 interfering with and 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]


Early life, education, and early career

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.[4] 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 1979, he received his medical degree from UCSF, where he was awarded the prestigious 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.

Medical career

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 continued to lose millions of dollars, and he was forced to resign.[5] Carmona was also a professor of medicine at the University of Arizona.

Law enforcement career

He worked for the Pima County Sheriff's Department since 1986. He eventually worked 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.[6]

In 1999, he confronted a mentally-ill person who was assaulting someone else at a car accident. After the person would not step out of his car, he shot at Carmona, and the Deputy Sheriff shot back seven times, killing him.[7] The deceased was an ex-convict who had shot and killed his father that day. Carmona was heavily criticized for his handing of the situation. However in 2000, he was honored by the National Association of Police Organizations as one of the nation's top cops.

Surgeon General

Carmona releases a report on osteoporosis.


President Bush's nomination of Carmona in March 2002 had a lot of criticism. Dr. Sidney Wolfe, the director of the Ralph Nader affiliated-Public Citizen's Health Research Group, criticized his integrity. Dr. Charles Putnam of the University of Arizona wrote a letter to U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy saying that he didn't have enough experience in health care and that he had character issues. He also criticized his handing of a shooting in 1999 by saying "Could not a physician have recognized the behavior of a mentally-ill individual and responded in kind?".[8] When testifying, he admitted it took him eight years to get board certification and the fact that he failed the exam twice.[9] Carmona was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on July 23, 2002. [10]

Passive smoking

In 2006, Carmona released a landmark Surgeon General's report on the health effects of secondhand smoke.[11] Carmona's report underlined the risks of secondhand smoke exposure; at the time of the report's release, Carmona stated: "The debate is over. The science is clear: Secondhand smoke is not a mere annoyance, but a serious health hazard."[12] 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.[13]

In earlier testimony before the U.S. Congress, Carmona had 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.[14]

Post-Surgeon General career

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. On June 16, 2010, Ross University School of Medicine named Carmona to its Board of Trustees.[15]

In 2006, Republicans attempted to recruit Carmona to run for Congress in Arizona's 8th Congressional district, but he declined.[16]

Criticism of Bush administration

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,[17] emergency contraception, and abstinence-only sex education, where the Administration's political stance conflicted with scientific and medical opinion.[18]

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."[19][20] 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.[13] 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.[21]

Reuters reported that Carmona's predecessors as Surgeon General had acknowledged the high level of political interference he experienced, saying: "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."[19]

2012 U.S. Senate campaign

Carmona is seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate in Arizona in the race to replace retiring Republican Senator Jon Kyl.[1]

Personal life

Carmona is married to Diana Sanchez. They have two daughters and two sons.

Awards and decorations

Badges and insignia

Personal awards and decorations

Bronze Star ribbon.svg Bronze Star
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Purple Heart (with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster)
Army and Air Force P.U.C.  Presidential Unit Citation
Meritorious Unit Commendation ribbon.svg Army Meritorious Unit Commendation
Army Good Conduct Medal
National Defense Service Medal
Vietnam Service Medal
US PHS Regular Corps Ribbon.jpg Public Health Service Regular Corps Ribbon
Republic of Vietnam Civil Actions Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross Unit Citation
Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
USPHS Comm Offr Assn R.JPG Commissioned Officers Association of the U.S. Public Health Service Medal
USPHS Assoc Am Mil Surg.JPG Association of Military Surgeons of the United States Medal
USPHS Res Officers Association.JPG Reserve Officers Association Medal

See also

  • List of famous Puerto Ricans
  • List of Puerto Rican military personnel


  1. ^ a b Nowicki, Dan (2011-11-10). "Carmona, former surgeon general, to run for Kyl's seat". The Arizona Republic. 
  2. ^ Allen, Paul L. (2006-08-03). "Chicago proud one of its own". Tucson Citizen. 
  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. 
  4. ^ Burger, Timothy J. "PREZ TAPS MAVERICK FOR SURGEON GENERAL", Daily News (New York), 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."
  5. ^,8599,221152,00.html#ixzz1a95hdUsl
  6. ^
  7. ^,3836840&dq=richard+carmona&hl=en
  8. ^
  9. ^,6622157&dq=richard+carmona&hl=en
  10. ^
  11. ^ The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke: A Report of the Surgeon General. Issued June 27, 2006; accessed March 21, 2008.
  12. ^ Neergaard, Lauran (2006-06-28). "Surgeon General: Beware Secondhand Smoke". Associated Press. 
  13. ^ a b Doyle, Leonard (2007-07-13). "White House 'gagged' Surgeon General". Politics (New Zealand Herald). Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  14. ^ 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." 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ 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." 
  18. ^ Harris, Gardiner (July 10, 2007). "White House Is Accused of Putting Politics Over Science". New York Times. 
  19. ^ 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’" 
  20. ^ 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.’" 
  21. ^ Bush Aide Blocked Report, Christopher Lee and Marc Kaufman, The Washington Post, July 29, 2007.

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