Health historians answers why we have a surgeon general

Historians in the News

Why do we have a surgeon general, and what does she do?

According to John Parascandola, former historian of the U.S. Public Health Service, the office of the surgeon general has its origins in the Marine Hospital Service, a system funded by the federal government in 1798 to treat merchant seamen arriving in U.S. ports. In 1870, the federal government centralized the operation and tapped former Civil War surgeon Dr. John Maynard Woodworth to head the system as the supervising surgeon, a position that was later renamed surgeon general. It was Woodworth who organized the service along military lines and put its doctors in uniform....

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