One Nation Under Stress: How Social Connection Can Heal Us

A Conversation with Dr. Vivek H. Murthy

Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., MBA, United States Surgeon General; Co-Founder, VISIONS; Co-Founder, Doctors for America
Mark Zitter, Chair, the Zetema Project; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors—Moderator

Stress. There is the good kind—the kind that makes us feel alive and excited. And then there is chronic stress—the type that keeps our cortisol levels high and has a toxic effect on our bodies, minds and hearts. Our country is feeling more stressed than ever. Twenty-four percent of adults in America have reported experiencing extreme stress, and 66 percent say they’re stressed out about the future of our nation. In a world that feels increasingly fraught and fractured, how might we heal ourselves? Join INFORUM for a conversation with Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, 19th surgeon general of the United States, doctor and tech entrepreneur, on how cultivating emotional well-being can counter stress, and how social connection might be the best prescription not only for ourselves but for the future of our country. 

Dr. Murthy served as the 19th surgeon general of the United States from 2014–2017. In his role as the nation’s doctor, he worked to address America's most pressing public health challenges, including those related to Ebola, Zika, and the Flint water crisis. He launched the TurnTheTide campaign in 2016, urging health professionals to join a movement to address our nation’s opioid crisis. He also issued the first Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health, calling on the nation to expand access to prevention and treatment and to recognize addiction as a chronic illness, not a character flaw. Dr. Murthy continued his office's legacy on preventing tobacco-related disease, releasing a historic surgeon general’s report on e-cigarettes and youth. From the beginning of his tenure, Dr. Murthy has spoken about the importance of health equity and of creating a culture of prevention in America—one that is grounded in physical activity, nutrition and emotional well-being. As the vice admiral of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, Dr. Murthy also oversaw a uniformed service of 6,700 public health officers, serving the most vulnerable populations domestically and abroad.

Dr. Murthy’s commitment to medicine and health began early in life. The son of immigrants from India, he discovered the art of healing in his father’s medical clinic in Miami, Florida. A believer in the power of community, he and his sister co-founded VISIONS, a peer-to-peer HIV/AIDS education program in India, and Swasthya (“health and wellbeing” in Sanskrit), a community health partnership that trained women to defy the odds in their patriarchal villages and become health-care providers and educators. As a health-care entrepreneur, Dr. Murthy co-founded TrialNetworks, a technology company that improves research collaboration in clinical trials around the world. He also co-founded Doctors for America, a nonprofit organization with more than 16,000 physician and medical student members from all 50 states that is dedicated to creating a high quality, affordable health-care system. 

Dr. Murthy received his bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his M.D. and MBA degrees from Yale. He completed his internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and later joined Harvard Medical School as a faculty member in internal medicine. His research focused on vaccine development and later on the participation of women and minorities in clinical trials. Dr. Murthy resides in Washington, D.C. with his wife and young son.

Image - Murthy

Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., MBA

19th Surgeon General of the United States; Co-Founder, VISIONS; Co-Founder, Doctors for America

Image - Zitter

Mark Zitter

Chair, the Zetema Project; Member, Commonwealth Club Board of Governors—Moderator