Office of the Surgeon General
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Office of the Surgeon General
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
Portrait gray.png
Incumbent
Vacant
U.S. Public Health Service
Commissioned Corps
Reports toAssistant Secretary for Health
SeatHubert H. Humphrey Building, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Washington, D.C.
AppointerPresident of the United States
with United States Senate advice and consent
Term length4 years
Constituting instrument42 U.S.C. § 205 and
42 U.S.C. § 207
FormationMarch 29, 1871
First holderJohn M. Woodworth (as Supervising Surgeon)
Websitewww.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]

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 (1) are members of the regular corps of the U.S. Public Health Service, and (2) have specialized training or significant experience in public health programs.[2] The surgeon general serves a four-year term of office and, depending on whether the current assistant secretary for health is a Public Health Service commissioned 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 most recent surgeon general is Jerome Adams, who took office on September 5, 2017 and resigned on January 20, 2021.[5][6]

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.[7] A similar health warning has appeared on alcoholic beverages labels since 1988.[8]

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--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).[9]

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).

Some surgeons general are notable for being outspoken and/or advocating controversial proposals on how to reform the U.S. health system.[] 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.

  • On January 11, 1964, Rear Admiral Luther Terry, M.D., published a landmark report saying that smoking may be hazardous to health,[10] sparking nationwide anti-smoking efforts. Terry and his committee defined cigarette smoking of nicotine as not an addiction. The committee itself consisted largely of physicians who themselves smoked. This report went uncorrected for 24 years.[11]
  • In 1986, Vice Admiral Dr. C. Everett Koop's report on AIDS called for some form of AIDS education in the early grades of elementary school, and gave full support for using condoms for disease prevention.[12] He also resisted pressure from the Reagan administration to report that abortion was psychologically harmful to women, stating he believed it was a moral issue rather than one concerning the public health.
  • In 1994, Vice Admiral Dr. Joycelyn Elders spoke at a United Nations conference on AIDS. She was asked whether it would be appropriate to promote masturbation as a means of preventing young people from engaging in riskier forms of sexual activity. She replied, "I think that it is part of human sexuality, and perhaps it should be taught."[13] Elders also spoke in favor of studying drug legalization. In a reference to the national abortion issue, she said, "We really need to get over this love affair with the fetus and start worrying about children."[14] She was fired by President Bill Clinton in December 1994.

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. Officer members of these services wear uniforms that are similar to those worn by the United States Navy, 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).[15]John Maynard Woodworth (1837-1879, served 1871-1879), the first holder of the office as "Supervising Surgeon", is the only surgeon general to not hold a rank.

List of surgeons general of the United States

No. Portrait Name
(Birth-Death)
Term of office Appointed by
(term)
Ref.
Took office Left office Time in office
1 John Maynard Woodworth by Hermann Günther, 1865.jpg John Maynard Woodworth
(1837-1879)
March 29, 1871 March 14, 1879 7 years, 350 days Ulysses S. Grant
(1869-1877)
2 John B Hamilton.jpg Rear Admiral
John B. Hamilton
(1847-1898)
April 3, 1879 June 1, 1891 12 years, 59 days Rutherford B. Hayes
(1877-1881)
3 Walter Wyman, photograph by Stalee.jpg Rear Admiral
Walter Wyman
(1848-1911)
June 1, 1891 November 21, 1911 20 years, 173 days Benjamin Harrison
(1889-1893)
4 Rupert Blue.jpg Rear Admiral
Rupert Blue
(1868-1948)
January 13, 1912 March 3, 1920 8 years, 50 days William Howard Taft
(1909-1913)
5 Hugh S Cumming.gif Rear Admiral
Hugh S. Cumming
(1869-1948)
March 3, 1920 January 31, 1936 15 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, 1936 April 6, 1948 12 years, 0 days Franklin D. Roosevelt
(1933-1945)
7 Leonard Scheele, photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg Rear Admiral
Leonard A. Scheele
(1907-1993)
April 6, 1948 August 8, 1956 8 years, 124 days Harry S. Truman
(1945-1953)
8 Leroy Edgar Burney, photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg Rear Admiral
Leroy Edgar Burney
(1906-1998)
August 8, 1956 January 29, 1961 4 years, 174 days Dwight D. Eisenhower
(1953-1961)
9 Luther Terry photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg Luther Terry
(1911-1985)
March 2, 1961 October 1, 1965 4 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, 1965 August 1, 1969 3 years, 304 days Lyndon B. Johnson
(1963-1969)
- Portrait gray.png Rear Admiral
Richard A. Prindle
(c. 1926-2001)
Acting
August 1, 1969 December 18, 1969 139 days Richard Nixon
(1969-1974)
[16][17]
11 Jesse Leonard Steinfeld, photo portrait as surgeon general.jpg Jesse Leonard Steinfeld
(1927-2014)
December 18, 1969 January 30, 1973 3 years, 43 days [18][19]
- Portrait gray.png Rear Admiral
S. Paul Ehrlich Jr.
(1932-2005)
Acting
January 31, 1973 July 13, 1977 4 years, 163 days [20]
12 Julius Richmond, Surgeon General official photo.jpg Vice Admiral
Julius B. Richmond
(1916-2008)
July 13, 1977 January 20, 1981 3 years, 191 days Jimmy Carter
(1977-1981)
[21]
- 1980 John C Greene in Official United States Rear Admiral Uniform.jpg Rear Admiral
John C. Greene
(1936-2016)
Acting
January 21, 1981 May 14, 1981 113 days Ronald Reagan
(1981-1989)
- Portrait gray.png Edward Brandt Jr.
(1933-2007)
Acting
May 14, 1981 January 21, 1982 252 days
13 C. Everett Koop, 1980s.jpg Vice Admiral
C. Everett Koop
(1916-2013)
January 21, 1982 October 1, 1989 7 years, 253 days
- James O. Mason USPHS.jpg Admiral
James O. Mason
(1930-2019)
Acting
October 1, 1989 March 9, 1990 159 days George H. W. Bush
(1989-1993)
14 VADM Antonia Novello.jpg Vice Admiral
Antonia Novello
(born 1944)
March 9, 1990 June 30, 1993 3 years, 113 days
- RADM Robert A Whitney Jr.jpg Rear Admiral
Robert A. Whitney
(born 1935)
Acting
July 1, 1993 September 8, 1993 69 days Bill Clinton
(1993-2001)
15 Joycelyn Elders official photo portrait.jpg Vice Admiral
Joycelyn Elders
(born 1933)
September 8, 1993 December 31, 1994 1 year, 114 days
- Audrey Manley, DHHS official bw photo.jpg Rear Admiral
Audrey F. Manley
(born 1934)
Acting
January 1, 1995 July 1, 1997 2 years, 181 days
16 David Satcher official photo portrait.jpg Admiral[a]
David Satcher
(born 1941)
February 13, 1998 February 12, 2002 3 years, 364 days [15]
- RADM Kenneth P. Moritsugu, USPHSCC.jpg Rear Admiral
Kenneth P. Moritsugu
(born 1945)
Acting
February 13, 2002 August 4, 2002 172 days George W. Bush
(2001-2009)
17 Richard carmona.jpg Vice Admiral
Richard Carmona
(born 1949)
August 5, 2002 July 31, 2006 3 years, 360 days
- RADM Kenneth P. Moritsugu, USPHSCC.jpg Rear Admiral
Kenneth P. Moritsugu
(born 1945)
Acting
August 1, 2006 September 30, 2007 1 year, 60 days
- Steven K Galson.jpg Rear Admiral
Steven K. Galson
(born 1956)
Acting
October 1, 2007 October 1, 2009 2 years, 0 days
- Donald L. Weaver official portrait.jpg Rear Admiral
Donald L. Weaver
Acting
October 1, 2009 November 3, 2009 33 days Barack Obama
(2009-2017)
18 Regina Benjamin official portrait.jpg Vice Admiral
Regina Benjamin
(born 1956)
November 3, 2009 July 16, 2013 3 years, 255 days [22][23]
- RADM Boris Lushniak acting Surgeon General.jpg Rear Admiral
Boris Lushniak
Acting
July 17, 2013 December 18, 2014 1 year, 154 days
19 Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, USPHS.jpg Vice Admiral
Vivek Murthy
(born 1977)
December 18, 2014 April 21, 2017 2 years, 124 days
- Sylvia Trent-Adams Official Portrait.jpg Rear Admiral
Sylvia Trent-Adams
Acting
April 21, 2017 September 5, 2017 137 days Donald Trump
(2017-2021)
20 Jerome Adams 2019.jpg Vice Admiral
Jerome Adams
(born 1974)
September 5, 2017 January 20, 2021 3 years, 137 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.

References

  1. ^ (ASPA), Digital Communications Division (DCD), Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (2008-10-24). "OASH Organization Chart". HHS.gov. Retrieved .
  2. ^ [1] 42 USC 205. Appointment and tenure of office of Surgeon General; reversion in rank.
  3. ^ a b [2] 42 USC 207. Grades, ranks, and titles of commissioned corps.
  4. ^ "Public Health, Commissioned Corps Uniforms and Ranks". Archived from the original on 2008-05-13.
  5. ^ "Dr. Jerome Adams sworn in as U.S. Surgeon General". 5 September 2017.
  6. ^ Diamond, Dan. "Surgeon General Resigns at Biden's Request". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2021.
  7. ^ "Public Health Information | R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company". R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Retrieved .
  8. ^ "Legislation". depts.washington.edu. Retrieved .
  9. ^ (OSG), Office of the Surgeon General. "About the Office of the Surgeon General". www.surgeongeneral.gov.
  10. ^ Julie M. Fenster Archived 2008-08-28 at the Wayback Machine "Hazardous to Your Health" American Heritage, Oct. 2006.
  11. ^ Joel Spitzer. The Surgeon General says... WhyQuit.com. Retrieved 2010.
  12. ^ Winn, Mari (October 9, 1988). "The Legacy of Dr. Koop". The New York Times.
  13. ^ Leon Dash, "Joycelyn Elders: From Sharecropper's Daughter to Surgeon General of the United States of America", Washington Monthly, January-February 1997
  14. ^ Dreifus, Claudia (9 March 1994). "Joycelyn Elders" – via NYTimes.com.
  15. ^ a b "David Satcher (1998-2002)". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. January 4, 2007. Retrieved 2009.
  16. ^ "House Panel Bids U.S. Study Marijuana's Use and Effects". The New York Times. Associated Press. September 7, 1969. p. 62. Retrieved 2017.
  17. ^ Zielinski, Graeme (September 15, 2001). "Public Health Researcher Richard Prindle Dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ "Washington: For the Record - December 18, 1969". The New York Times. December 19, 1969. p. 7. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ "Jesse Leonard Steinfeld (1969-1973)". SurgeonGeneral.gov. 2007-01-04. Retrieved .
  20. ^ Office, U.S. Government Accountability (27 August 1974). "Need for More Effective Management of Community Mental Health Centers Program" (B-164031(5)). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  21. ^ "HHS Secretaries - National Institutes of Health (NIH)". Nih.gov. Archived from the original on 2008-09-24. Retrieved .
  22. ^ "Obama picks Regina Benjamin as surgeon general". Reuters. July 13, 2009.
  23. ^ Stobbe, Mike (December 3, 2009). "Surgeon general: More minority doctors needed". WTOP. Retrieved 2009.

External links


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