Coausphs News

USPHS Turns 127

1/4/2016 12:00:00 AM

Happy Birthday, Public Health Service!

Though the actual name “Public Health Service” would not be applied until thirteen years later, it was on this date in 1889 that President Grover Cleveland signed into law “An Act to Regulate Appointments in the Marine Hospital Service of the United States.” It is from this date and as a result of this law that the modern Public Health Service has existed. This Act provided that medical officers of the Marine Hospital Service would be appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate after passing a “satisfactory” examination. These officers were henceforth to constitute a professional, mobile corps of medical specialists who could be deployed anywhere.

This modest group of professional medical personnel has blossomed into the robust Commissioned Corps that we all know today, and the number of medical specialties represented in the Corps has grown from one to eleven. The Corps itself has increased from around 100 officers in 1889 to its current strength of just over 6600. Corps officers are assigned to more than twenty-five U.S. Government agencies and departments and provide healthcare to Native Americans, to federal prison inmates, to uniformed U.S. Coast Guard personnel and to commissioned officers in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They work in the Defense Department and in federal laboratories and regulatory agencies alongside their civilian colleagues, and they respond to almost every natural and human-caused disaster in this country, from hurricanes to floods to mass shootings. And as we all know, PHS officers voluntarily deploy worldwide in the interest of public health, as they did to Liberia in 2014 and 2015.

The Commissioned Officers Association of the USPHS has existed since 1951 to support members of the Commissioned Corps, while the PHS Commissioned Officers Foundation for the Advancement of Public Health was created a few years ago to provide another venue for such support, such as sponsoring and supporting the annual USPHS Scientific and Training Symposium. We at COA and COF salute the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps on this, its 127th birthday, and we wish it many more years of service to the country and the world as its officers promote public health in whatever job they are assigned.

Col. James T. Currie, USA (ret.)
Executive Director, COA and COF