An interesting article from Cato asks this question.
Really, now, do we need one? Isn't this a duplication of effort? I suspect that Reagan would have gotten rid of the office except for Dr. Koop's media presence.
Here are the duties of the Surgeon General:
To protect and advance the health of the Nation through educating the public; advocating for effective disease prevention and health promotion programs and activities; and, provide a highly recognized symbol of national commitment to protecting and improving the public's health;
To articulate scientifically based health policy analysis and advice to the President and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the full range of critical public health, medical, and health system issues facing the Nation;
To provide leadership in promoting special Departmental health initiatives, e.g., tobacco and HIV prevention efforts, with other governmental and non-governmental entities, both domestically and internationally;
To administer the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps, which is a uniquely expert, diverse, flexible, and committed career force of public health professionals who can respond to both current and long-term health needs of the Nation;
To provide leadership and management oversight for PHS Commissioned Corps involvement in Departmental emergency preparedness and response activities;
To elevate the quality of public health practice in the professional disciplines through the advancement of appropriate standards and research priorities; and
To fulfill statutory and customary Departmental representational functions on a wide variety of Federal boards and governing bodies of non-Federal health organizations, including the Board of Regents of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, the National Library of Medicine, the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, and the American Medical Association.
By the way, I have worked with Dr. Elders as a medical student in the pediatric endocrinology clinic. What a fascinating place!
I agree with the Cato article; none of these need a figurehead to accomplish.
Oh, here's the current guy.