Image: Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Scott Gries  /  Getty Images file
Dr. Sanjay Gupta poses for a photo backstage during 'CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute' at the American Museum of Natural History in 2006.
NBC News and news services
updated 3/5/2009 8:21:32 PM ET 2009-03-06T01:21:32

Dr. Sanjay Gupta has withdrawn his name from consideration for the job of surgeon general, senior administration officials told NBC News on Thursday.

Gupta had been offered the job but was weighing the financial considerations, including a pay cut, that it would entail, NBC reported. The Obama administration confirmed that Gupta, a neurosurgeon, had taken himself out of the running because he wants to focus on his medical career and spend more time with his family.

Gupta, 39, was seen as President Barack Obama's first pick for the job. He would have brought star power to the office of surgeon general, which has lacked visibility since the days of C. Everett Koop in the Reagan administration.

The surgeon general is the nation's doctor, and while the job doesn't involve much policymaking responsibility, it's a bully pulpit for promoting public health. Gupta could have helped Obama pitch his health care reform plan.

Initial reports in early January that Obama had approached Gupta about the job created a stir. The new president had not yet taken office. The chairman of the American Medical Association's board said at the time it would be a boon to the government if Gupta accepted.

But Gupta would have had to give up a lucrative career. He hosts "House Call" on CNN, contributes reports to CBS News and writes a column for Time magazine. He also practices surgery at Atlanta's Grady Memorial Hospital, which sees more than its share of trauma cases.

Political opposition had started to form.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., called Gupta inexperienced and circulated a letter urging Obama not to appoint him. Conyers is a leading supporter of health care reform that would create a government system similar to Canada's, and is particularly influential among liberals.

Gupta does have some Washington experience. During the Clinton administration, he served as a White House fellow and a special adviser to then-first lady Hillary Clinton.  

© 2013 msnbc.com

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