One of seven uniformed services, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps has over 6,800 officers treating patients nationwide, preventing disease, creating vaccines and new medicines, and managing billions of dollars of public money. Their impact over the past dozen years is immense.
These men and women work in conditions ranging from state-of-the-art laboratories of the National Institutes of Health to windswept and isolated Alaskan outposts with the Indian Health Service. They are physicians, dentists, nurses, engineers, scientists, environmental health officers, veterinarians, pharmacists, dietitians, therapists, social workers, and more. In addition to different areas of expertise, each USPHS officer brings a commitment to national service, superior professional credentials, and an ability to deploy domestically and globally.
Rotations of 65-person teams staffed the Ebola treatment unit in Monrovia, Liberia. Public Health Service officers were the only U.S. uniformed personnel providing direct care for patients with Ebola. For their outstanding efforts, President Barack Obama presented the USPHS Commissioned Corps with the Presidential Unit Citation. Click here for more information about the Oval Office presentation.
Hundreds of officers responded to an influx of unaccompanied children who crossed the southern border. They provide medical screening and advise on preventive health measures.
Psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and therapists are some of the professionals who are helping Soldiers in the Army to cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and a host of other issues service members must handle during and after deployments to combat zones. Officers with similar skills help children, parents, and residents of communities after school shootings, including Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and the Navy Yard shootings.
CDR Ingrid Pauli commanded the psychological response to the Navy Yard shooting in 2013
Officers in the USPHS Commissioned Corps deploy on short-term missions to assist our allies in need of medical assistance. Officers have participated with the Navy’s Pacific Partnership and Continuing Promise missions, providing internal medical, optometry, dental, surgical, environmental health, and other types of care while aboard the USNS Mercy, USNS Comfort, USS Boxer, or USS Bataan.
Ground Zero after 9/11
Over 1,000 officers responded with teams of clinicians and behavioral health experts. They treated the wounds, both physical and mental, of rescue workers and responders. Officers assumed roles in the incident command system and established first aid stations and clinics. Dentists with forensic training supported the New York City Medical Examiner's office to identify victims.
Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom
Commissioned Corps officers have served admirably in Iraq and Afghanistan, alongside members of their sister services. They are on land and at sea, caring for injured service members and host nationals. One officer led efforts to rebuild the health systems in Afghanistan.
Officers stationed with the CDC/NIOSH were called to investigate letters containing the bacterium causing anthrax. Officers provided antibiotics to 37,000 Americans, treated those who inhaled the bacterium, and issued guidance educating first responders on protective actions.
Avian Influenza H5N1
Veterinarians consulted for the World Health Organization in countries like Laos to assess the local risk of H5N1 and encourage measures for detecting, reporting, controlling, and preventing H5N1 infection in people and poultry. Stateside, officers were busy educating the American public, assisting local health departments, coordinating prevention and response activities with Canada and Mexico, and developing “bird flu” vaccines.
Clinicians of numerous types, engineers, and environmental health officers deploy in response to hurricanes like Sandy, Gustav, Ike, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma. They provide direct care to evacuees, community members, and responders. They also assist local and state health officials to establish health systems shut down by the disasters.
Public Health Service officers after Hurricane Sandy in Brooklyn, NY