Surgeon General of the United States

Last updated
Surgeon General of the
United States
United States Public Health Service (seal).svg
Seal of the United States Public Health Service, 1798
Flag of the United States Surgeon General v1.svg
Flag of the United States Surgeon General
Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General (profile).jpg
Incumbent
Vice Admiral
Vivek Murthy

since March 25, 2021
U.S. Public Health Service
Commissioned Corps
Style Surgeon General
Vice Admiral
AbbreviationSG
VADM
Reports to United States Assistant Secretary for Health
Seat Hubert H. Humphrey Building, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Washington, D.C.
Appointer President of the United States
with United States Senate advice and consent
Term length 4 years
Constituting instrument 42 U.S.C.   § 205 and
42 U.S.C.   § 207
FormationMarch 29, 1871
First holder John M. Woodworth (as Supervising Surgeon)
DeputyDeputy Surgeon General
Website www.SurgeonGeneral.gov

The surgeon general of the United States is the operational head of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) and thus the leading spokesperson on matters of public health in the federal government of the United States. The Surgeon General's office and staff are known as the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG), which is housed within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health. [1]

Contents

The U.S. surgeon general is nominated by the president of the United States and confirmed by the Senate. The surgeon general must be appointed from individuals who are members of the regular corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and have specialized training or significant experience in public health programs. [2] However, there is no time requirement for membership in the Public Health Service before holding the office of the Surgeon General, and nominees traditionally were appointed as members of the Public Health Service and as Surgeon General at the same time. The surgeon general serves a four-year term of office and, depending on whether the current assistant secretary for health is a commissioned corps officer, is either the senior or next most senior uniformed officer of the commissioned corps, holding the rank of a vice admiral. [3] [4] The current surgeon general is Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy.

Responsibilities

The surgeon general reports to the assistant secretary for health (ASH), who may be a four-star admiral in the commissioned corps, and who serves as the principal advisor to the secretary of health and human services on public health and scientific issues. The Surgeon General is the overall head of the commissioned corps, a 6,500-member cadre of uniformed health professionals who are on call 24 hours a day and can be dispatched by the secretary of HHS or the assistant secretary for health in the event of a public health emergency.

The surgeon general is also the ultimate award authority for several public health awards and decorations, the highest of which that can be directly awarded is the Surgeon General's Medallion (the highest award bestowed by board action is the Public Health Service Distinguished Service Medal). The surgeon general also has many informal duties, such as educating the American public about health issues and advocating healthy lifestyle choices.

The office also periodically issues health warnings. Perhaps the best known example of this is the surgeon general's warning label that has been present on all packages of American tobacco cigarettes since 1966. [5] A similar health warning has appeared on alcoholic beverages labels since 1988. [6]

History

In 1798, Congress established the Marine Hospital Fund, a network of hospitals that cared for sick and disabled seamen. The Marine Hospital Fund was reorganized along military lines in 1870 and became the Marine Hospital Service—the predecessor to today's United States Public Health Service. The service became a separate bureau of the Treasury Department with its own staff, administration, headquarters in Washington, D.C, and the position of supervising surgeon (later surgeon general, where in this context, the adjective "general" following the noun meaning widespread or overall, not military rank). [7]

After 141 years under the Treasury Department, the Service came under the Federal Security Agency in 1939, then the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) in 1953, and finally the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Prior to 1970, the surgeon general was traditionally selected from career uniformed officers. [8] Today, the surgeon general is usually selected from the civilian community, who aligns more closely with the president's political party. [8] The office is not a particularly powerful one, and has little direct statutory impact on policy-making, but Surgeons General are often vocal advocates of precedent-setting, far-sighted, unconventional, or even unpopular health policies.

The U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force also have officers overseeing medical matters in their respective services who hold the title Surgeon General, of their respective services, while the surgeon general of the United States is surgeon general of the entire country as a whole.

The insignia of the surgeon general, and the USPHS, use the caduceus as opposed to the Rod of Asclepius.

Service rank

The surgeon general is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, one of the eight uniformed services of the United States, and by law holds the rank of vice admiral. [3] Officers of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps are classified as non-combatants, but can be subjected to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Geneva Conventions when designated by the commander-in-chief as a military force or if they are detailed or assigned to work with the armed forces. Officers of the commissioned corps, including the surgeon general, wear uniforms that are modeled after uniforms of the United States Navy and the United States Coast Guard, except that the commissioning devices, buttons, and insignia are unique. Officers in the U.S. Public Health Service wear unique devices that are similar to U.S. Navy staff corps officers (e.g., Navy Medical Service Corps, Supply Corps, etc.).

The only surgeon general to actually hold the rank of a four-star admiral was David Satcher (born 1941, served 1998–2002). This was because he served simultaneously in the positions of surgeon general (three-star) and assistant secretary for health (which is a four-star office). [14] John Maynard Woodworth (1837–1879, served 1871–1879), the first holder of the office as "Supervising Surgeon."

List of surgeons general of the United States

No.PortraitName
(Birth–Death)
Term of officeAppointed by
(term)
Ref.
Took officeLeft officeTime in office
1 John M. Woodworth.jpg John M. Woodworth
(1837–1879)
March 29, 1871March 14, 18797 years, 350 days Ulysses S. Grant
(1869–1877)
2 Surgeon General John B. Hamilton.jpg Commodore
John B. Hamilton
(1847–1898)
April 3, 1879June 1, 189112 years, 59 days Rutherford B. Hayes
(1877–1881)
3 Walter Wyman, ca. 1898 (B026910).jpg Commodore
Walter Wyman
(1848–1911)
June 1, 1891November 21, 191120 years, 173 days Benjamin Harrison
(1889–1893)
4 Rupert Blue 3.jpg Commodore
Rupert Blue
(1868–1948)
January 13, 1912March 3, 19208 years, 50 days William Howard Taft
(1909–1913)
5 Hugh S. Cumming.jpg Rear Admiral
Hugh S. Cumming
(1869–1948)
March 3, 1920January 31, 193615 years, 334 days Woodrow Wilson
(1913–1921)
6 Thomas Parran, Jr., photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg Rear Admiral
Thomas Parran Jr.
(1892–1968)
April 6, 1936April 6, 194812 years, 0 days Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933–1945)
7 Rear Admiral Leonard Scheele.jpg Rear Admiral
Leonard A. Scheele
(1907–1993)
April 6, 1948August 8, 19568 years, 124 days Harry S. Truman
(1945–1953)
8 Leroy Edgar Burney, photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg Rear Admiral
Leroy E. Burney
(1906–1998)
August 8, 1956January 29, 19614 years, 174 days Dwight D. Eisenhower
(1953–1961)
9 Luther Terry photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg Luther Terry
(1911–1985)
March 2, 1961October 1, 19654 years, 213 days John F. Kennedy
(1961–1963)
10 William H. Stewart, photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg William H. Stewart
(1921–2008)
October 1, 1965August 1, 19693 years, 304 days Lyndon B. Johnson
(1963–1969)
Portrait gray.png Rear Admiral
Richard A. Prindle
(c. 1926–2001)
Acting
August 1, 1969December 18, 1969139 days Richard Nixon
(1969–1974)
[15] [16]
11 Jesse Leonard Steinfeld, photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg Jesse L. Steinfeld
(1927–2014)
December 18, 1969January 30, 19733 years, 43 days [17] [18]
Rear Admiral S. Paul Ehrlich, Jr.jpg Rear Admiral
S. Paul Ehrlich Jr.
(1932–2005)
Acting
January 31, 1973July 13, 19774 years, 163 days [19]
12 Julius Richmond, Surgeon General official photo.jpg Vice Admiral
Julius B. Richmond
(1916–2008)
July 13, 1977January 20, 19813 years, 191 days Jimmy Carter
(1977–1981)
[20]
1980 John C Greene in Official United States Rear Admiral Uniform.jpg Rear Admiral
John C. Greene
(1936–2016)
Acting
January 21, 1981May 14, 1981113 days Ronald Reagan
(1981–1989)
Portrait gray.png Edward Brandt Jr.
(1933–2007)
Acting
May 14, 1981January 21, 1982252 days
13 C. Everett Koop, 1980s.jpg Vice Admiral
C. Everett Koop
(1916–2013)
January 21, 1982October 1, 19897 years, 253 days
James O. Mason USPHS.jpg Admiral
James O. Mason
(1930–2019)
Acting
October 1, 1989March 9, 1990159 days George H. W. Bush
(1989–1993)
14 VADM Antonia Novello.jpg Vice Admiral
Antonia Novello
(born 1944)
March 9, 1990June 30, 19933 years, 113 days
RADM Robert A Whitney Jr.jpg Rear Admiral
Robert A. Whitney
(born 1935)
Acting
July 1, 1993September 8, 199369 days Bill Clinton
(1993–2001)
15 Joycelyn Elders official photo portrait.jpg Vice Admiral
Joycelyn Elders
(born 1933)
September 8, 1993December 31, 19941 year, 114 days
Audrey Manley, DHHS official bw photo.jpg Rear Admiral
Audrey F. Manley
(born 1934)
Acting
January 1, 1995July 1, 19972 years, 181 days
16 David Satcher official photo portrait.jpg Admiral [lower-alpha 1]
David Satcher
(born 1941)
February 13, 1998February 12, 20023 years, 364 days [14]
RADM Kenneth P. Moritsugu, USPHSCC.jpg Rear Admiral
Kenneth P. Moritsugu
(born 1945)
Acting
February 13, 2002August 4, 2002172 days George W. Bush
(2001–2009)
17 Richard carmona.jpg Vice Admiral
Richard Carmona
(born 1949)
August 5, 2002July 31, 20063 years, 360 days
RADM Kenneth P. Moritsugu, USPHSCC.jpg Rear Admiral
Kenneth P. Moritsugu
(born 1945)
Acting
August 1, 2006September 30, 20071 year, 60 days
Steven K Galson.jpg Rear Admiral
Steven K. Galson
(born 1956)
Acting
October 1, 2007October 1, 20092 years, 0 days
Donald L. Weaver official portrait.jpg Rear Admiral
Donald L. Weaver
Acting
October 1, 2009November 3, 200933 days Barack Obama
(2009–2017)
18 Regina Benjamin official portrait.jpg Vice Admiral
Regina Benjamin
(born 1956)
November 3, 2009July 16, 20133 years, 255 days [21] [22]
RADM Boris Lushniak acting Surgeon General.jpg Rear Admiral
Boris Lushniak
Acting
July 17, 2013December 18, 20141 year, 154 days
19 Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, USPHS.jpg Vice Admiral
Vivek Murthy
(born 1977)
December 18, 2014April 21, 20172 years, 124 days
Sylvia Trent-Adams Official Portrait.jpg Rear Admiral
Sylvia Trent-Adams
Acting
April 21, 2017September 5, 2017137 days Donald Trump
(2017–2021)
[23]
20 Jerome Adams 2019.jpg Vice Admiral
Jerome Adams
(born 1974)
September 5, 2017January 20, 20213 years, 137 days
RADM Susan Orsega (two-star).jpg Rear Admiral
Susan Orsega
Acting
January 20, 2021March 24, 202162 days Joe Biden
(2021–Present)
[24]
21 Vivek Murthy, Surgeon General (profile).jpg Vice Admiral
Vivek Murthy
(born 1977)
March 25, 2021Present1 year, 99 days

See also

Notes

  1. Reverted to the rank of vice admiral in 2001, for the remainder of his term as surgeon general, when he no longer held the office of Assistant Secretary for Health.

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References

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