You may recall that President Obama’s first pick for surgeon general, CNN senior medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, turned down the White House’s job offer.

Today I saw this headline attached to an Associated Press story: “‘House’ actor Kal Penn joins White House team.”

Penn portrayed Dr. Lawrence Kutner on the FOX show “House,” so I immediately hoped Obama hadn’t drafted a fake doctor to be the surgeon general. (Of course I didn’t really think the president would do that.)

Penn, probably best known for his role as Kumar in the two “Harold and Kumar” movies, is joining the White House staff as an associate director in the office of public liaison, working with the Asian-American and arts communities. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the actor stumped for Obama during the 2008 presidential campaign and worked as a floor whip at the Democratic National Convention. Additionally, Penn told Entertainment Weekly he had thought about entering politics for awhile.

It isn’t often you read about an actor spurning Hollywood paychecks to perform public service. That is why Penn’s decision to work in the Obama administration impresses me.

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