While everyone is familiar with the six United States Armed Forces, (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and Space Force), many are unaware that the U.S. government has eight uniformed services to include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. The USPHS Commissioned Corps is the only uniformed service in the world dedicated to public health – and serves as the unique public health force of our federal government.
Officers are deployed under the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) with a mission to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of our Nation.”
Although often “invisible,” the USPHS Commissioned Corps touches lives of Americans every day, including the development of strategies to address clean air and water, fight disease, conduct research, support national health security, monitor drug safety, and care for patients in underserved communities across the nation and throughout the world. The USPHS Commissioned Corps includes both a Regular Corps, on full-time active duty, and a Ready Reserve Corps for service in time of a national emergency.
Corps officers serve in one of the following eleven professional categories: Dentist, Dietitian, Engineer, Environmental Health Officer, Health Services Officer, Nurse, Pharmacist, Physician, Scientist, Therapist, Veterinarian. They are assigned to nine U.S. Departments and over twenty federal government agencies, resulting in a broad and diverse public health network reaching across government to more than 800 duty stations worldwide.
The USPHS Commissioned Corps has responded successfully to every public health crisis when called upon by the U.S. government, including some of the most visible in history such as Ebola and COVID-19. Corps Officers have deployed to terrorist events, natural disasters, humanitarian assistance events, epidemics, pandemics, and other public health crises. Yet, this unique service continues its struggle to gain the visibility it has earned and support in its mission from our government. Changing administrations and lack of understanding of this unique uniformed service with leadership and public health expertise are continual threats to their service and ongoing mission.
The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is positioned to remain a relevant and enduring force in public health and will continue to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of our nation. The PHS Commissioned Officers Foundation is asking for your support in this education campaign through the creation of this PBS documentary, along with other video elements for use on social media and in presentations.