Hamilton: Meet America’s new surgeon general (column)
For some reason, President Trump’s April 21 appointment of an African-American female to become the acting U.S. Surgeon General was given scant attention by the mainstream media. But the life story of Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams deserves national attention as does the story of our valiant U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS).
Interestingly, someone who started her nursing career as an Army Nurse Corps Second Lieutenant (0-1), is now a two-star Rear Admiral (0-8) in the U.S. Public Health Service and, unless she repeats her fired predecessor’s notion that guns — instead of heart disease and cancer — are America’s number one public health issue — will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate and promoted to three-star Vice Admiral (0-9) rank.
Admiral Trent-Adams received her commission as an Army officer nurse through the ROTC program at Hampton University. She served five years as an Army nurse. In 1992 she transferred to the Health Service. Along the way to the Office of the Surgeon General, she earned a M.S. and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. Admiral Trent-Adams is married and has two daughters.
But, to go back in history, some do not know that all U.S. Army Nurses are commissioned officers. Most Army nurses are female; however, 35 percent of active-duty Army Nurses are male. Moreover, many do not know that the USPHS is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. The others are the: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Normally, the USPHS is under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; however, in time of war, President Trump can place the USPHS under one of the armed services.
Because USPHS officers often serve in the poorest countries with the worst possible climates and where the threat of dread diseases of epidemic scope is always present, the officers of the USPHS are held in high regard by their comrades in the uniformed armed services. Wherever and whenever there is a major natural or man-made disaster, the officers of the USPHS converge on the scene. They risk their personal health many times over.
The commissioned officers of the USPHS wear the uniform and carry the ranks of the U.S. Navy/Coast Guard. The USPHS is composed of commissioned officers, ranging in rank from ensign to vice-admiral (three stars). But, if an USPHS officer is appointed to be Assistant Secretary of Health, that officer can be promoted to four-star rank (0-10). The USPHS has no enlisted personnel and no Warrant Officers, although existing statutes permit the appointment of Warrant Officers.
Admiral Trent-Adams is not, however, the first female Surgeon General. Both Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton appointed minority women to that post. Nor is Admiral Trent-Adams the first R.N. to be the Surgeon General. President George W. Bush appointed the African-American male, Richard Carmona, who was both a R.N. and a M.D. And a Democrat!
But what distinguishes Admiral Trent-Adams from all her predecessors is that she is the first non-physician, female African-American R.N., Ph.D., member of the American Academy of Neurology, to serve as Surgeon General. Admiral Trent-Adams deserves more notice than she has been given thus far.
William Hamilton is a regular columnist for Sky-Hi News. For more visit http://www.central-view.com.
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