Talk:Surgeon General of the United States

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In official correspondence, the Commissioned Corps is NOT listed as the "Public Health Service Commissioned Corps" but rather "Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service." Moreover, officers are not "Public Health Service Commissioned Officers," but rather "Commissioned Officers of the U.S. Public Health Service."

What was written in the first comment is actually correct. While for the sake of expediency, many, including the Corps itself, often write "United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps" in official correspondence should be referred to as the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service. The same website referenced as the authoritative source states in the history section that the Corps has been around for more than 200 years. That is incorrect. The Public Health Service (not the Corps) traces its roots to the Act for the Care of Sick and Disabled Seamen. The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service was authorized by legislation in 1889. The website further states that, beginning in 1798, the Corps provided medical care to the U.S. Navy. This is also incorrect. The Act covered the care of merchant seamen. The Corps' website has many factual errors and should not be considered the authoritative source.

Why is a General a Vice Admiral?[edit]

It would have been nice to know the details of how it is that civilians hold a rank of "Vice Admiral": upon being nominated to Surgeon general, are people also sworn into the Navy? This is weird stuff.

I was wondering the same thing. According to the current Wikipedia definition, Vice Admiral is a strictly Naval rank. I was under the impression that the Surgeon General was a... general. I can clearly see from the official page that Vice Admiral is the given rank, but... why call him a general and why the Naval rank? Can anyone clear this up? It would be worth adding to the article. - Epastore 00:51, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
Ah, I got it. Uniformed services of the United States pretty much clears it up. But the use of "general" is still a mystery to me. - Epastore 01:31, 28 June 2006 (UTC)
The reason is that the "General", If I am not mistaken, is not a reference to the rank of General, but as in "General Superior", which means 'the head of an organization', in this case the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. ~ Porphyric Hemophiliac § 01:47, 23 August 2006 (UTC)
Actually, "admiral" is a General Officer rank. Any rank above colonel-level is a "general". Colonel-level is defined as having the authority (at least in theory) to command as much as a single regiment of troops. If you are allowed to command more than that, you are, by definition, a general. As a general, depending on your branch, you may actually be called an admiral. There is no contradiction in the Surgeon General being a vice admiral. -- 19:17, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
Chief Medical Officer is not just understood as a Surgeon General in th USA. It is widely understood as a very common title in any hospital, being the highest medical doctor in charge of medical issues in a hospital. Example in a job description: There are hundreds of other websites which will provide you with similar information. Please, can a regular Wikipedia editor add this information about the title of Chief Medical Officer, instead of simply redirecting it instantly to the page of Surgeon General ?! —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:58, 3 March 2010 (UTC)

The answer to why the Surgeon General is a Vice Admiral is that, by statute, all service Surgeons General serve at the grade of O-9 (Vice Admiral in the sea services or Lieutenant General for the Army and Air Force). You were mistaken in your original question when you referred to the Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service as a "civilian". When serving in the office, he/she is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health of the uniformed services of the United States. the Service traces its history back to 1798, and has been a uniformed service since 1889. While often confused for Navy personnel, these commissioned officers are members a non-DoD service...the U.S. Public Health Service...whose parent Department is Health and Human Services. The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service is comprised of approximately 6,000 public health professionals (thus, this entire service is analogous to the Navy's Medical/Nurse/Dental/Medical Service Corps).

While the above statement is mostly correct, an appointee can be a civilian. If the appointee is a civilian, he or she receives a direct commission into the PHSCC and is commissioned, by law, to the grade of Vice Admiral upon taking oath. If he or she is already a serving uniformed member of the PHSCC, then he or she is promoted to the grade of Vice Admiral upon officially assuming the position. 06:27, 19 August 2007 (UTC)
Actually, if one reads the statement that preceded the one posted on 19 August, one would find it to be absolutely correct. That statement clearly indicated that "when serving in the office, he/she is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service". Sure the appointee can be a civilian...right up until he/she begins serving in the office. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 21:55, August 21, 2007 (UTC)

Surgeon General Title[edit]

As a note, all the armed services regardless of service have Surgeons General.

Not all armed services have their own surgeon general. The Surgeon General of the Navy serves as the SG for the Marine Corps as well (since the Marine Corps is within the Department of the Navy). Likewise, The Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service serves in that capacity for the Coast Guard and the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well.

This is correct. The PHSCC details medical, dental, and other various officers to the Coast Guard and NOAA Corps for these services do not employ these types officers with health backgrounds of their own. Neovu79 (talk) 07:45, 20 July 2008 (UTC)
Given that, as you say, the Marine Corps is within the Department of the Navy, it is not in a technical sense, a separate armed service from the Navy, and never has been. Therefore, the fact you give does not contradict the assertion that all armed services have their own Surgeon General. The Coast Guard, while a uniformed service, is only an armed service in times of declared war, when the president reorganizes them into the Department of Defense. The Coast Guard is currently in the Department of Homeland Security. The NOAA has never been an armed service. You are splitting a hair that does not exist. -- 19:21, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
As a sidenote, before the Coast Guard was moved into the DHS, it was in the Department of Transportation. It hasn't been in the DoD since WWII ended, and probably never will be again. -- 19:24, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
Finally, the Coast Guard is a uniformed services that is armed, but it is not an "armed service" because it does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Kthxbye. -- 19:31, 30 October 2007 (UTC)
Kthxbye, that is not correct. While the Coast Guard falls under the control of the Department of Homeland Security, it is by law still part of the United States armed forces. Because of this the Senate oversite committee that monitors everything pertaining to the Coast Guard is the Senate Committee on Armed Services. Also while the PHSCC and the NOAA Corps are noncombantant uniformed services, officers from these services can be subjected to the Uniform Code of Military Justice if they are detailed to or placed via presidential executive order under an armed force service miking them part of the military. Neovu79 (talk) 07:45, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

The U.S. Coast Guard--while not a part of the Department of Defense--does in many respects fall under the jurisdiction of the Senate Armed Services Committee because the Coast Guard, like the PHS does derive benefits from the Defense Department. Also the Marine Corps is still a part of the Navy Department, which is composed of the U.S. Navy and the Marine Corps. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:21, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

While the Coast Guard falls under the control of the Department of Homeland Security, it is by law still part of the United States armed forces. Because of this the Senate oversite committee that monitors everything pertaining to the Coast Guard is the Senate Committee on Armed Services. Neovu79 (talk) 07:45, 20 July 2008 (UTC)

James Holsinger - - nominee to be named?[edit]

This weekend on the NPR dot-org website there is an article/news story about this potential nominee and the likely points of contention as the Bush administration vets him. . .Holsinger is a KY Physician - - not in WIKI article yet. . . Politics & Society Challenges Await Bush Surgeon General Nominee

by Joanne Silberner 

All Things Considered, May 26, 2007 · President Bush has nominated Kentucky doctor James Holsinger to be the nation's new surgeon general. If confirmed by the Senate, Holsinger's impact in the office will likely depend on his relationship with the Bush administration.

Timothyjshaw 12:22, 27 May 2007 (UTC)timothyjshaw

Sunday May 27

New Acting Surgeon General[edit]

According to the Surgeon General's website the new Acting Suegeon General is Steven Galson. - Presidentman (talk) Random Picture of the Day 11:35, 6 October 2007 (UTC)

Ranks of the Surgeon General not all correct[edit]

The original statute for the first several Surgeon General's was NOT VADM. Moreover, the legal statutory authority for Rank of the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service is based in Army Rank, and NOT Navy Rank. The first references to rank date back to 1889, when the Corps was officially recognized, though in correspondence from the time era, rank followed the old Navy rank structure.

The Corps has suffered from a rank identity problem, especially in World War II. Both Navy and Army ranks were used. One such example is Major-General Warren F. Draper, the first Deputy Surgeon General of the Corps. Draper held the rank of Major-General from 1944 through his retirement in 1946.

It was not until the Corps was demiliterized at the close of the Korean conflict that official regulation allowed the Corps to use Navy Rank. Today, authorization to use Navy Rank by Corps Officers is found in Chapter 10 of the U.S. Navy Regulations. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:11, 13 January 2008 (UTC)

Rank of the Surgeon General[edit]

42 USC 207 specifically states that the rank of Commissioned Officers of the U.S. Public Health Service is Army. More specifically,

(a) Grades of commissioned officers The Surgeon General, during the period of his appointment as such, shall be of the same grade as the Surgeon General of the Army; the Deputy Surgeon General and the Chief Medical Officer of the United States Coast Guard, while assigned as such, shall have the grade corresponding with the grade of major general; and the Chief Dental Officer, while assigned as such, shall have the grade as is prescribed by law for the officer of the Dental Corps selected and appointed as Assistant Surgeon General of the Army. During the period of appointment to the position of Assistant Secretary for Health, a commissioned officer of the Public Health Service shall have the grade corresponding to the grade of General of the Army.

The way the Corps uses the Navy Rank is post World War II when the Corps started to wear the Navy uniform more frequently than the Army Uniform. It appears the Navy made a request to the Corps of the Public Health Service to use Navy rank while in Navy uniforms, and this authorization has carried over into Chapter 10, Navy Regulations Section 1002. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:31, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

I think you'll find in this case that 'grade' is meant along the lines of 'has this much authority'. F'rinstance, as indicated in the article, the Surgeon-General is designated as O-9. The Army, Air Force and Marines all call this rank "Lieutenant-General"; the Navy calls it "Vice-Admiral". But it's all the same grade - O-9.    ¥    Jacky Tar  22:38, 16 February 2008 (UTC)

Dr. Sanjay Gupta[edit]

Dr Sanjay Gupta has not been nominated as Surgeon General of the United States of america by President-Elect Obama. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hockeyboy97 (talkcontribs) 21:15, 6 January 2009 (UTC)

Actually he has been offered the position: WackoJacko (talk) 08:39, 20 January 2009 (UTC)

It has been said that Dr. Gupta has been offered the position of Surgeon General of the United States by President Obama but he has not been formally nominated to the office —Preceding unsigned comment added by Hockeyboy97 (talkcontribs) 14:31, 2 March 2009 (UTC)

I removed the following text concerning Gupta because he is no longer a candidate and so doesn't belong on this page.

In January 2009, news sources reported that Sanjay Gupta had been offered the position of Surgeon General of the United States in the administration of President Barack Obama, that he had accepted the offer and that the final vetting was under way.[1][2] On March 5, 2009 CNN's Wolf Blitzer reported that Gupta would not be the surgeon general under the Obama administration. It was reported that Gupta wanted to continue working as a neurosurgeon and as CNN's medical correspondent. It was also reported that Gupta's wife is currently expecting another child which may have played a role in his decision to decline the offer.[3]

This text might be appropriate for Gupta's page--Njerseyguy (talk) 08:44, 6 March 2009 (UTC)

Improper presentation of sourced material / copied from elsewhere[edit]

This section:

In 1798, Congress established the Marine Hospital Service—predecessor to today’s United States Public Health Service—to provide health care to sick and injured merchant seamen. In 1870, the Marine Hospital Service was reorganized as a national hospital system with centralized administration under a medical officer, the Supervising Surgeon, who was later given the title of Surgeon General.[4]

is copied directly from the website of the Surgeon General ( Yes, it is cited, but this manner of citation generally implies the material - not the wording - comes from that source. See

A clear distinction should also be drawn between work submitted by Wikipedia editors as their own work (which can be "edited mercilessly"); work marked as a quotation or paraphrase of other people's actions or words (which can be edited as long as the original sense is not lost); and direct copying of large blocks of free content written by other people. Unless the goal is to use text of this last sort as part of the article, which can be mercilessly edited, it may be better to use smaller pieces as direct quotations.

I have not examined the rest of the article, but the entire thing should be checked to make sure it is originally written and not just copied. As a reminder, although the information in question is produced by and for a US Government body and is thus in the AMERICAN public domain - uncopyrightable - it maintains copyright internationally (as do all US government works). Glacialfury (talk) 11:23, 17 February 2009 (UTC)


Perhaps something could be put in about the education requirements for the surgeon general. Is the term surgeon mere formality -- could the surgeon general be anyone in the health sciences, like a pediatrician, a dentist or a nurse? DRosenbach (Talk | Contribs) 05:23, 4 March 2009 (UTC)

This is what also brought me to this talk page : is the person a surgeon at all ? Or an MD ? This article must document that clearly. --Jerome Potts (talk) 02:37, 10 December 2010 (UTC)

Overlapping terms[edit]

It says Leonard A. Scheele ended 8 August 1956, but LeRoy Edgar Burney started on 1 August 1956. That is 8 days of overlap.  Randall Bart   Talk  23:25, 29 March 2011 (UTC)

Request for Clarification[edit]

The Surgeon General is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate....yet...The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a uniformed service.

So does the President's nomination have to come from within the pool of PHSCC Admirals? Or can he nominate an outsider? -- (talk) 08:31, 5 February 2013 (UTC)

He can nominate a PHSCC officer or an outsider. Regina Benjamin, the current Surgeon General was not a member of the PHSCC before her nomination and confirmation. The 14th Surgeon General Antonia Novello was a career PHSCC officer before her appointment. EricSerge (talk) 13:31, 5 February 2013 (UTC)