Surgeon General of the United States

Surgeon General of the
United States
United States Public Health Service (seal).svg
Seal of the United States Public Health Service, 1798
Flag of the United States Surgeon General.svg
Flag of the United States Surgeon General
Vice Admiral Jerome Adams

since September 5, 2017
Public Health Service
Public Health Service, Commissioned Corps
Reports toAssistant Secretary for Health
SeatHubert H. Humphrey Building, United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Washington, D.C.
AppointerThe President
with United States Senate advice and consent
Term length4 years
FormationMarch 29, 1871

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3][4] The current surgeon general is Jerome Adams, having taken office on September 5, 2017.[5]


Seal of the U.S. Public Health Service, 1798

The surgeon general reports to the assistant secretary for health (ASH), who may be a four-star admiral in the commissioned corps, and who serves as the principal adviser to the secretary of health and human services on public health and scientific issues. The surgeon general is the overall head of the Commissioned Corps, a 6,500-member cadre of uniformed health professionals who are on call 24 hours a day, and can be dispatched by the secretary of HHS or the assistant secretary for Health in the event of a public health emergency.

The surgeon general is also the ultimate award authority for several public health awards and decorations, the highest of which that can be directly awarded is the Surgeon General's Medallion (the highest award bestowed by board action is the Public Health Service Distinguished Service 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 label that has been present on all packages of American tobacco cigarettes since 1966.[6] A similar health warning has appeared on alcoholic beverages labels since 1988.[7]