Hutchinson names new Arkansas surgeon general

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Incoming Gov. Asa Hutchinson named an Alabama physician and son of a state senator as Arkansas' new surgeon general on Tuesday.

Hutchinson announced that Greg Bledsoe, who currently chairs the Department of Emergency Medicine of Marshall Medical Center South in Alabama, will take over next month in the post currently held by Joe Thompson. Hutchinson, a Republican who will take office Jan. 13, announced last month that he wasn't keeping Thompson as the state's top health official.

Bledsoe completed medical school and his residency at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences.

"Over the course of his career, Dr. Greg Bledsoe has experienced tremendous success, both nationally and internationally — just some of the many reasons I am pleased to announce him as Arkansas's new surgeon general," Hutchinson said in a prepared statement. "I have had the pleasure of knowing Greg for some time, and there is no doubt that he will serve our state and people well in this new role."

Hutchinson said Bledsoe also will join the faculty at UAMS as an associate professor in the College of Medicine's Department of Emergency Medicine.

Bledsoe is the son of Republican state Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, who chairs the Senate Public Health Committee and has been an opponent of the state's "private option" compromise Medicaid expansion. Thompson had been a key advocate for the program, which uses federal funds to purchase private insurance for the poor and was crafted as an alternative to the Medicaid expansion envisioned under the federal health law.

Hutchinson has said he'll announce by late January at the earliest whether he supports continuing the program.

Bledsoe spent five years on the faculty at the Johns Hopkins Department of Emergency Medicine and has been an instructor and medical consultant to the United States Secret Service. He was the personal physician to former President Bill Clinton for his tour of Africa in 2002.

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