The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC), also referred to as the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service, is the federal uniformed service of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS), and is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.
Along with the NOAA Commissioned Officer Corps, the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is one of two uniformed services that consist only of commissioned officers and has no enlisted or warrant officer ranks, although warrant officers have been authorized for use within the service. Officers of the PHS are classified as noncombatants, unless directed to serve as and part of the armed forces by the President or detailed to a service branch of the armed forces. Members of the commissioned corps wear the same uniforms as the United States Navy, or the United States Coast Guard (when assigned to the Coast Guard), with special PHS Commissioned Corps insignia, and hold ranks equivalent to officers of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. Officers of the commissioned corps typically receive their commissions through the PHS Commissioned Corps's direct commissioning program.
As with its parent division, the Public Health Service, the commissioned corps is under the direction of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The commissioned corps is led by the Surgeon General, who holds the grade of vice admiral. The Surgeon General reports directly to the Department of Health and Human Services, Assistant Secretary for Health; the Assistant Secretary of Health may be appointed to the rank of admiral if he or she is a currently-serving member of the commissioned corps.
|United States Public Health Service|
USPHS Commissioned Corps centennial emblem fashioned after the Corps' official seal.
|Founded||4 January 1889|
|Role||Healthcare and medical services|
|Part of||U.S. Public Health Service|
|Headquarters||Division of Commissioned Corps Personnel and Readiness, North Bethesda, Maryland, U.S. (Rockville mailing address)|
|Motto(s)||"Protecting, promoting and advancing the health and safety of the Nation!" (core values: Leadership, Service, Integrity, and Excellence)|
|Colors||Blue and Yellow-Gold |
|March||"Public Health Service March" Play (help·info)|
World War I
World War II
War in Afghanistan
|Decorations||Presidential Unit Citation (2015)|
|Assistant Secretary for Health||ADM Brett P. Giroir|
|Surgeon General||VADM Jerome Adams|
|Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health||RADM Sylvia Trent-Adams|
|Deputy Surgeon General||RADM Erica G. Schwartz|
|RADM Luther Leonidas Terry|
VADM Julius B. Richmond
VADM C. Everett Koop
ADM James O. Mason
ADM David Satcher
ADM John O. Agwunobi
ADM Joxel García
|Flag of the U.S. Public Health Service|
The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps had its beginnings with the creation of the Marine Hospital Fund in 1798, which later was reorganized in 1871 as the Marine Hospital Service. The Marine Hospital Service was charged with the care and maintenance of merchant sailors, but as the country grew, so did the ever-expanding mission of the service. The Marine Hospital Service soon began taking on new expanding health roles that included such health initiatives that protected the commerce and health of America. One such role was quarantine.
John Maynard Woodworth, a famous surgeon of the Union Army who served under General William Tecumseh Sherman, was appointed in 1871 as the Supervising Surgeon. Woodworth's title was later changed to "Supervising Surgeon General," which later became the Surgeon General of the United States. Woodworth is credited with the formal creation of the Commissioned Corps. Woodworth organized the Marine Hospital Service medical personnel along Army military structure in 1889 to facilitate a mobile force of health professionals that could be moved for the needs of the service and country. He established appointment standards and designed the Marine Hospital Service herald of a fouled anchor and caduceus. Later that year of 1889, President Grover Cleveland signed an Act into law that formally established the modern Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (then the Marine Hospital Service under the Supervising Surgeon (later Surgeon General)). At first open only to physicians, over the course of the twentieth century, the Corps expanded to 11 careers in a wide range of specialties to include veterinarians, dentists, engineers, pharmacists, nurses, environmental health specialists, scientists, dietitians, and other allied health professionals.
Today, the commissioned corps is under the United States Public Health Service (PHS), a major agency now of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), established by Congress in 1979-1980. It was previously established in 1953 as the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), and is still led by the Surgeon General. The commissioned corps allocates officers to all seven uniformed services depending on the health or medical needs of the other uniformed services. The commissioned corps was featured in the 1950 motion picture Panic in the Streets, in which Richard Widmark portrayed a Public Health Service physician tracking down a bubonic plague victim.
The stated mission of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service is "Protecting, promoting, and advancing the health and safety of the Nation" in accordance with the commissioned corps's four Core Values: Leadership, Excellence, Integrity, and Service. Officers execute the mission of the commissioned corps in the following ways:
Plus, the commissioned corps provides officers (Medical Officers, Dental Officers, Therapists, Environmental Health Officers, etc.) to other uniformed services, primarily the United States Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps (NOAA Corps). Commissioned corps officers may be detailed to other federal agencies including the Department of Defense, TRICARE, Department of Justice (Federal Bureau of Prisons), State Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of the Interior (National Park Service). Commissioned corps officers may develop individual memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with other organizations, including state and local health agencies, and even non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
The Commissioned Corps is often called upon by other federal, state, and local agencies to aid and augment in times when those agencies' resources are overwhelmed. These responses are designated as deployments by the commissioned corps, if the deployment is outside of the officer's "normal" duties, and coordinated through the commissioned corps's Readiness and Deployment Operations Group (REDDOG) in the Division of Commissioned Corps Personnel and Readiness (DCCPR). Deployments may be for technical needs in standard settings, or in the event of disasters, in austere environments.
The commissioned corps is often deployed as part of the National Response Framework Emergency Support Function #8 – Public Health and Medical Services, but can be deployed outside of the Framework for various needs to other federal agencies, states, local governments, or even to aid foreign governments. Like all other federal-level responses, commissioned corps officers are deployed only upon request, and upon the recommendation of the Surgeon General and permission of the Assistant Secretary for Health. During deployments, commissioned corps officers may report to regular office spaces, such as coordinating responses at state-of-the-art emergency operations centers, or into the field in extremely austere environments, such as when responding to a natural disaster. In addition, deployments may either be on an individual basis, such as when specific skill sets are needed, or as part of a team, when large-scale responses are needed.
The commissioned corps uses a tiered system of response, with Tier 1 response teams ready and able to respond to an event within 12 hours, and Tier 2 teams ready and able to respond within 36 hours. Officers not on Tier 1 or 2 teams are Tier 3 responders, ready and able to respond to an event in 72 hours. Tier 1 teams are primarily made up of Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) teams that are made up of over 100 officers with multiple specialties, and are focused on providing acute clinical care of disaster-exacerbated chronic conditions. Officers who do not work as a clinical care provider on one of these teams are often in support roles, such as logistics, administration/finance, or planning. Tier 2 teams are composed of a smaller, more specialized workforce. Current Tier 2 teams include the Applied Public Health Team (APHT), the Mental Health Team (MHT), and the Services Access Team (SAT). Tier 3 commissioned corps officers not already assigned to one of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams are used to augment the Tier 1 and Tier 2 teams in the event of staffing shortages due to availability, or the need to scale up a response.
They are trained and equipped to respond to public health crises and national emergencies, such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, or terrorist attacks. The teams are multidisciplinary and are capable of responding to domestic and international humanitarian missions. Some notable deployments involving the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps include:
In addition to disaster response, the commissioned corps frequently partners with the United States Navy on their health diplomacy missions. PHS Corps officers have been part of the Navy's Pacific Partnership (in the Pacific basin) and Continuing Promise (in the Caribbean/west Atlantic) since 2007. Such missions are often carried out on either the US Navy's commissioned hospital ships, the USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) or USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), though other ships, such as the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5), have also been used. The command staff of the PHS deployed team(s) is deployed for the entire mission duration (often three months), while operational personnel serve one month aboard, meeting and departing the ships at the ports of call during the mission.
The commissioned corps, as a uniformed service, may be militarized and considered a branch of the armed forces by an act of Congress, or by executive order by the President of the United States, not only in time of war, but in "an emergency involving the national defense proclaimed by the President." Major militarization of the corps occurred during World War II and another later during the Korean War.
Commissioned Corps officers wear uniforms similar to those of the United States Navy with special PHS insignia. In certain duty situations, a commissioned corps officer can be detailed to work with another uniformed service. For example, the NOAA Corps does not commission medical officers, so the commissioned corps details medical officers to serve with the NOAA as needed. The commissioned corps also details a number of officers to the United States Coast Guard. Because of this close relationship, if a commissioned corps officer is on assignment with the Coast Guard, the officer is required to wear the same service uniforms as commissioned Coast Guard officers, but still bearing PHS Commissioned Corps insignia to identify them. The commissioned corps officer is subject to the grooming standards of the service to which attached for uniform appearance.
|Commissioned officer ranks, pay grades, titles and abbreviations of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps|
|Junior assistant||Assistant||Senior assistant||Full||Senior||Director|
|Rear Admiral (lower half)||Rear Admiral||Vice Admiral||Admiral|
|Assistant Surgeon General||Deputy Surgeon General or
Assistant Surgeon General
|Surgeon General||Assistant Secretary for Health|
The members of the Commissioned Corps number over 6,700 officers in 11 professional categories:
The Health Services Officer (HSO) category comprises over 50 allied health specialties, including audiology, social workers, physician assistants, optometrists, statisticians, computer scientists, dental hygienists, medical records administrators, medical technologists and others.
The commissioned corps uses the same commissioned officer rank structure as the United States Navy and Coast Guard: from ensign to admiral (O-1 through O-10). Commissioned Corps officers are typically appointed via direct commission, and receive the same pay and benefits as other members of the uniformed services. They cannot hold a dual commission with another uniformed service but inter-service transfers are permitted.
The commissioned corps may be militarized by the President. 42 USC 217 states:
In time of war, or of emergency involving the national defense proclaimed by the President, he may by Executive order declare the commissioned corps of the Service to be a military service. Upon such declaration, and during the period of such war or such emergency or such part thereof as the President shall prescribe, the commissioned corps (a) shall constitute a branch of the land and naval forces of the United States, (b) shall, to the extent prescribed by regulations of the President, be subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice [10 U.S.C. 801 et seq.], and (c) shall continue to operate as part of the Service except to the extent that the President may direct as Commander in Chief.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed by President Obama on 23 March 2010, established the Ready Reserve Corps as the new surge capacity for the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service. In addition, all Reserve Corps officers who were serving on extended active duty on 23 March 2010, were converted to Regular Corps officers. The same legislation also abolished the Inactive Reserve Corps (IRC) on 23 March 2010, and consequently the commissions of the existing 10,000 commissioned corps IRC officers. The Office of Reserve Affairs (ORA) sent letters to those individuals, notifying them of their change of status.
The IRC served as an asset for the commissioned corps. Inactive reservists voluntarily activated to provide over 3,000 active-duty days annually for routine and public health emergencies including during Hurricane Katrina and other emergency response missions and in providing surge capacity for numerous shortages in isolated and hardship underserved areas. Inactive reservists also played roles in the humanitarian shipboard training missions with other uniformed services.
Congress established the Ready Reserve Corps to fulfill the need to have additional commissioned corps personnel available on short notice to assist Regular Corps personnel to meet both routine public health and emergency response missions. The Ready Reserve Corps officers will be available and ready for involuntary calls to active duty during national emergencies and public health crises.
Because of the changes in the law, a Ready Reserve Corps Working Integrated Project Team (WIPT) was convened in April 2010 to propose policy concepts, a strategic framework, and a budget for the Ready Reserve Corps. The WIPT submitted its final report to the Office of Commissioned Corps Force Management (OCCFM) in June 2010, and OCCFM forwarded the recommendations of the WIPT to the Assistant Secretary for Health for review and approval. As of late 2016, the directives and policies to implement the Ready Reserve await Secretarial decisions needed to implement the 2010 law.
Standards for appointment into the Ready Reserve Corps and related proposed directives and policies remain under review. ORA is not accepting applications for the Ready Reserve Corps at this time, but will begin accepting applications after the Secretary issues the implementing directives.
ORA, in collaboration with OCCFM and the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations, will continue to coordinate Ready Reserve Corps initiatives and communications. When information is available on the appointment criteria, policies, and application procedures, updates will appear on the USPHS Web site at https://web.archive.org/web/20090506174822/http://www.usphs.gov/ and the Commissioned Corps Management Information System Web site at http://dcp.psc.gov. As soon as the appointment standards are available, qualified individuals are encouraged to apply for appointment into the Ready Reserve Corps.
Like the other U.S. uniformed services, the U.S. Public Health Service has a march and accompanying lyrics. Composed by retired U.S. Coast Guard Senior Chief Musician George King III in the late 1980s, the lyrics are as follows:
The mission of our service is known the world around
In research and in treatment no equal can be found
In the silent war against disease no truce is ever seen
We serve on the land and the sea for humanity
The Public Health Service Team
Admiral (abbreviated as ADM) is a four-star commissioned naval flag officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, with the pay grade of O-10. Admiral ranks above vice admiral and below fleet admiral in the Navy; the Coast Guard and the Public Health Service do not have an established grade above admiral. Admiral is equivalent to the rank of general in the other uniformed services. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps has never had an officer hold the grade of admiral. However, 37 U.S.C. § 201 of the U.S. Code established the grade for the NOAA Corps, in case a position is created that merits the four-star grade.
Since the five-star grade of fleet admiral has not been used since 1946, the grade of admiral is effectively the highest appointment an officer can achieve in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.Anne Schuchat
Anne Schuchat (born 1960) is an American medical doctor who serves as the Principal Deputy Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She previously served as Acting Director of the CDC (and as acting Administrator for the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) from January 20, 2017 through July 7, 2017; and again from January 31, 2018 through March 26, 2018, when she was succeeded by Robert R. Redfield as Director. She is an Assistant Surgeon General holding the rank of rear admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Having worked with the CDC on immunization, respiratory, and other infectious diseases since 1988, she served as the Interim Deputy Director for Science and Public Health at the CDC from February 2009 to June 2009. She has also held other posts in the CDC.Boris Lushniak
Boris Lushniak is a retired United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps rear admiral who served as the acting Surgeon General of the United States, from July 17, 2013 to December 18, 2014. He previously served as the Deputy Surgeon General from 2010 to 2013 and from 2014 to 2015 when Vivek Murthy assumed office as Surgeon General. He retired from the Public Health Service on December 8, 2015 after over 27 years of service. On October 4, 2016 he was appointed dean of the University of Maryland, College Park School of Public Health, effective January 9, 2017.Clare Helminiak
Clare Helminiak is a Rear Admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She served as the Chief Medical Officer and is an Assistant Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service.David Satcher
David Satcher, (born March 2, 1941) is an American physician, and public health administrator. He was a four-star admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and served as the 10th Assistant Secretary for Health, and the 16th Surgeon General of the United States.Heidi Blanck
Captain Heidi Michels Blanck is an American public health epidemiologist, nutrition and obesity researcher, and officer of the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. Blanck is currently chief of the Obesity Prevention and Control Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and a senior advisor at the CDC.Blanck received a PhD in Nutrition and Health Sciences from Emory University, and holds an adjunct professor position there. Blanck is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and is also on the editorial board of the medical journal Childhood Obesity.James O. Mason
James Ostermann Mason (born June 19, 1930) is an American medical doctor and public health administrator. He was the United States Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) from 1989 to 1993 and the Acting Surgeon General of the United States from 1989 to 1990. As the ASH he was also a former four-star admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. He was also a director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a general authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).Jerome Adams
Jerome M. Adams is an American anesthesiologist and a vice admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps who currently serves as the 20th Surgeon General of the United States. Before assuming his current role, he served as the Indiana State Health Commissioner (2014–17). On June 29, 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Adams to become Surgeon General of the United States. Adams was confirmed by the United States Senate on August 3, 2017. He assumed office on September 5, 2017.Joycelyn Elders
Minnie Joycelyn Elders (born Minnie Lee Jones; August 13, 1933) is an American pediatrician and public health administrator. She was a vice admiral in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the first African American appointed as Surgeon General of the United States. Elders is best known for her frank discussion of her views on controversial issues such as drug legalization, masturbation and distributing contraception in schools. She was forced to resign in December 1994 amidst controversy as a result of her views. She is currently a professor emerita of pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.Julius B. Richmond
Julius Benjamin Richmond (September 26, 1916 – July 27, 2008) was an American pediatrician and public health administrator. He was a vice admiral in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and served as the United States Surgeon General and the United States Assistant Secretary for Health during the Carter Administration, from 1977 to 1981. Richmond is noted for his role in the creation of the Head Start program for disadvantaged children, serving as its first national director.List of United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps four-star admirals
There have been 5 four-star admirals in the history of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. All five were directly commissioned into the regular corps. One was already an officer in the regular corps and the other four were originally civilians who were appointed to the regular corps and to grade upon taking office.Nicole Lurie
Nicole Lurie is an American physician, professor of medicine, and public health official. During the administration of President Barack Obama, she was Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The mission of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response is to "lead the nation in preventing, responding to and recovering from the adverse health effects of public health emergencies and disasters, ranging from hurricanes to bioterrorism."Public Health Service Distinguished Service Medal
The Public Health Service Distinguished Service Medal is the highest decoration of the United States Department of Health and Human Services Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.Rear admiral (United States)
Rear admiral in the United States refers to two different ranks of commissioned officers — one-star flag officers and two-star flag officers. By contrast, in most nations, the term "rear admiral" refers to an officer of two-star rank.Surgeon General of the United States
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.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. 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. The current Surgeon General is Jerome Adams, having taken office on September 5, 2017.Sylvia Trent-Adams
Sylvia Trent-Adams (born circa 1965) is a rear admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps who currently serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health. She previously served as the Deputy Surgeon General of the United States from October 25, 2015 to January 2, 2019. Trent-Adams also served as acting Surgeon General of the United States from April 21, 2017 to September 5, 2017.Timeline of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
This is a timeline of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and its predecessor, the Marine Hospital Service.United States Public Health Service
The United States Public Health Service (USPHS) is a division of the Department of Health and Human Services concerned with public health. It contains eight out of the department's eleven operating divisions. The Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) oversees the PHS. The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) is the federal uniformed service of the USPHS, and is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.
Its origins can be traced to the establishment in 1798 of a system of marine hospitals. In 1870 these were consolidated into the Marine Hospital Service, and the position of Surgeon General was established. In 1889, the PHSCC was established. As the system's scope grew, it was renamed the Public Health Service in 1912. The Public Health Service Act of 1944 consolidated and revised previous laws and is the current legal basis for the PHS. It became part of the Federal Security Agency and later the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, which became the Department of Health and Human Services in 1979.Vice admiral (United States)
Vice admiral (abbreviated as VADM) is a three-star commissioned naval officer rank in the United States Navy, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Commissioned Officer Corps, with the pay grade of O-9. Vice admiral ranks above rear admiral and below admiral. Vice admiral is equivalent to the rank of lieutenant general in the other uniformed services.
|Operations and history|
|Secretariate staff offices|
|Public Health Service|
|Human services agencies|