Surgeon General of the United States

From Academic Kids

The Surgeon General of the United States is the leading spokesman on matters of public health in the Government of the United States. The Surgeon General is appointed by the President of the United States with the advice and consent of The United States Senate for a 4-year term of office. In carrying out all responsibilities, the Surgeon General reports to the Assistant Secretary for Health, who is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Health and Human Services on public health and scientific issues.

The Surgeon General holds the rank of Vice Admiral (VADM) and heads the 6,000-member Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service, a troop of emergency health professionals who are on call 24 hours a day, and can be dispatched by the Surgeon General in the event of a public health emergency. In 1999, then Surgeon General VADM David Satcher established the Surgeon General's Honor Corps, an elite organization of officers who have demonstrated exceptional commitment and dedication to, and pride in, the Commissioned Corps. The Surgeon General is also the ultimate award authority for several Public Health awards and decorations, the highest of which is the Surgeon General's 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" labels that can be found on all packages of American cigarettes.

Past American Surgeons General have often been characterized by their outspoken personalities and often controversial proposals on how to reform the US health system. Because the office is not a particularly powerful one, and has little direct impact on policy-making, Surgeons General are often vocal advocates of unconventional, unusual, or even unpopular health policies. General C. Everett Koop and Joycelyn Elders were two former Surgeons General who were well-known for their controversial ideas, especially on sex education.

The Office of the Surgeon General was an independent government agency until 1953 at which point it was integrated into the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and later into the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

The U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force also have officers overseeing medical matters in their respective services who hold the title Surgeon General.

Outside the US the term chief medical officer is a common equivalent.

United States Surgeons General

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