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United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps: Wikis


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United States Public Health Service
Commissioned Corps
USPHS Commissioned Corps insignia.png

United States Public Health Service
Commissioned Corps
Active July 16, 1798[1][2] - today
Country United States of America
Branch Commissioned Corps
Type Uniformed service
Size 6,000+ personnel[3]
Part of Department of Health and Human Services
Public Health Service
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Colors Blue & Gold         
Surgeon General VADM Regina Benjamin
Acting Deputy Surgeon General RADM David Rutstein
VADM Julius B. Richmond
VADM C. Everett Koop
ADM James O. Mason
ADM David Satcher
ADM John O. Agwunobi
ADM Joxel García

The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) is the federal uniformed service of the United States Public Health Service (PHS) and is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.

The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is one of two uniformed services that only consist of commissioned officers and has no enlisted or warrant officer ranks. Officers of the PHS are classified as noncombatants, unless directed to serve as part of the armed forces by the President or detailed to a service branch of the armed forces.[5] Members of the PHSCC wear the same uniforms as the United States Navy with special corps insignia and hold ranks equivalent to those of naval officers. Officers of the PHSCC receive their commissions through the PHSCC's direct commissioning program.

As with its parent division the PHS, the PHSCC is under the direction of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The PHSCC is led by the Surgeon General who holds grade of vice admiral.[6] The Surgeon General reports directly to the Assistant Secretary for Health who may hold the rank of admiral if he or she is a serving member of the PHSCC.[6]



The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps had its beginnings with the creation of the Marine Hospital Fund, 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.

Dr. John Maynard Woodworth, a famous surgeon of the Union Army who fought under General William Tecumseh Sherman, was appointed in 1871 as the Supervising Surgeon. Dr. Woodworth's title was later changed to "Supervising Surgeon General," which later became the Surgeon General of the United States. Dr. Woodworth is credited with the formal creation of the Commissioned Corps. Dr. Woodworth organized the Marine Hospital Service medical personnel along Army military structure to facilitate a mobile force of health professionals that could be moved for the needs of the service and country. He also established appointment standards and designed the Marine Hospital Service herald of a fouled anchor and caduceus. Later that year, 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 include dentists, environmental engineers, pharmacists, nurses, environmental health specialists, scientists, and other health professionals.

In 1989, his medical officers helped victims of Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta, California, earthquake.[citation needed] In the early 1990s, PHS officers provided medical care to citizens affected by flooding in various areas of the United States including Alaska. In 1994, Corps officers were involved in the recovery effort of the Northridge, California earthquake. In 1995, Corps officers were sent to help with the aftermath of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. More than 1,000 Corps officers were deployed to New York City after the attacks on September 11, 2001 to aid victims and provide medical and mental health services to responders and rescue workers. In 2005, in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, over 1,000 PHS officers deployed to set up field hospitals and render aid and assistance to evacuees and responders.

Today, the PHSCC is under the United States Public Health Service (PHS), the main division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and is still led by the Surgeon General. The PHSCC allocate officers to all seven uniformed services depending on the health and/or medical needs of the other uniformed services. The Corps also recently initiated a transformation to enlarge the size of the Corps and introduce 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 will be Tier 3 responders, ready and able to respond to an event in 72 hours.


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". The agencies and programs Corps officers are assigned to:

  • Help provide healthcare and related services to medically underserved populations: to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and to other population groups with special needs;
  • Prevent and control disease, identify health hazards in the environment and help correct them, and promote healthy lifestyles for the nation's citizens;
  • Improve the nation's mental health;
  • Ensure that drugs and medical devices are safe and effective, food is safe and wholesome, cosmetics are harmless, and that electronic products do not expose users to dangerous amounts of radiation;
  • Conduct and support biomedical, behavioral, and health services research and communicate research results to health professionals and the public; and
  • Work with other nations and international agencies on global health problems and their solutions.

In addition, the 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 Corps. Corps officers may also be detailed to other federal agencies including the Department of the Defense, TRICARE, Department of Justice (BOP), State Department, and Department of Homeland Security.

Commissioned officers

The members of the Commissioned Corps number over 6,000 officers in numerous professional categories, including:

physicians, dentists, pharmacists, dietitians, engineers, scientists, environmental health officers, therapists (including physical, occupational, speech, audiology), health services (including social workers, physician assistants, optometrists, statisticians, computer scientists, dental hygienists, medical records administrators, medical technologists and others), veterinarians, and nurses. Chiropractors are not presently included but their inclusion is under discussion.

The Corps uses the same commissioned officer ranks as the United States Navy and Coast Guard from ensign to admiral, uniformed services pay grades O-1 through O-10 respectively. USPHS Commissioned Corps officers are appointed via direct commission and receive the same pay as other members of the uniformed services. They cannot hold a dual commission with another service but inter-service transfers are permitted.

Commissioned Officer Ranks, Titles and Abbreviations of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps
Admiral Vice Admiral Rear Admiral Rear Admiral
(lower half)
O-10 O-9 O-8 O-7
USA - PHS - O10 insignia.png USA - PHS - O9 insignia.png USA - PHS - O8 insignia.png USA - PHS - O7 insignia.png
Assistant Secretary for Health Surgeon General Deputy Surgeon General or
Assistant Surgeon General
Assistant Surgeon General
Captain Commander Lieutenant
Lieutenant Lieutenant
(junior grade)
O-6 O-5 O-4 O-3 O-2 O-1
USA - PHS - O6 insignia.png USA - PHS - O5 insignia.png USA - PHS - O4 insignia.png USA - PHS - O3 insignia.png USA - PHS - O2 insignia.png USA - PHS - O1 insignia.png
Director Senior Full Senior Assistant Assistant Junior Assistant


PHS Cap Device

Corps officers wear uniforms similar to those of the United States Navy with special PHSCC insignia. In certain duty situations, a PHSCC officer can be allocated to another uniformed service. For example, the NOAA Corps do not commission medical officers on board ship so the PHSCC allocates officers to them. The PHSCC also allocates and details a number of officers to the United States Coast Guard. Because of this close relationship, if a PHSCC officer is on assignment with the Coast Guard, the officer is required to wear the same service uniforms as regular Coast Guard officers, but still bearing PHSCC insignia to identify them. The PHSCC officer is also subject to grooming standards of the service to which attached for uniform appearance.
Service Dress BluesSummer KhakisSummer Whites

See also


  1. ^ Public Health Service Bicentennial
  2. ^ About the Commissioned Corps History
  3. ^ What is the Commissioned Corps?
  4. ^ a b c Militarization of the PHS Commissioned Corps
  5. ^ UCMJ S 802. Art. 2. Subs. (a). Para. (8)
  6. ^ a b "U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 24 June 2008. 
  7. ^ About the Commissioned Corps Uniforms
  • Fitzhugh, Mullan. Plagues and Politics: The Story of the United States Public Health Service. New York: Basic Books, 1989. ISBN 0465057799; ISBN 978-0465057795.

External links



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