Surgeon General of the United States Navy


Surgeon General of the
United States Navy
Navy Medicine Logo.png
Seal of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
Bruce L. Gillingham (2).jpg
RADM Bruce L. Gillingham

since November 1, 2019[1]
Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
United States Navy Medical Corps
TypeHead of the medical branch of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps
Member ofOffice of the Chief of Naval Operations
Reports toSecretary of the Navy
Chief of Naval Operations
Director, Defense Health Agency
ResidenceSuite 5113, 7700 Arlington Boulevard, Falls Church, Virginia
SeatDefense Health Headquarters, Falls Church, Virginia
AppointerThe President
with Senate advice and consent
Term length4 years
Constituting instrument10 U.S.C. § 8077
First holderWilliam Maxwell Wood
DeputyDeputy Surgeon General of the Navy/Deputy Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (Navy matters)
Chief, Medical Corps/Medical Officer of the Marine Corps (Marine matters)
WebsiteOfficial website

The surgeon general of the Navy (SGN) is the most senior commissioned officer of the Medical Corps of the United States Navy and is the principal advisor to the United States Secretary of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations and director of the Defense Health Agency on all health and medical matters pertaining to the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. As head of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the surgeon general also manages Navy and Marine healthcare policy, administering the services' healthcare and biomedical research facilities as well as the various staff corps of BUMED, including the Medical Corps and an enlisted corps. The surgeon general is also a member of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.

Typically, the holder of the surgeon general post is a three-star vice admiral. The present surgeon general, Rear Admiral Bruce L. Gillingham is the first two-star admiral to hold the office in over 50 years since Rear Admiral Edward C. Kenney was surgeon general from 1961 to 1965.[2]

Establishment of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

On 31 August 1842, the United States Congress passed a Navy appropriation bill that was a blueprint for efficiency. The legislation provided for five Navy bureaus United States Navy bureau system to replace the outdated Board of Navy Commissioners—Yards and Docks; Construction, Equipment, and Repair; Provisions and Clothing; Ordnance and Hydrography; and Medicine and Surgery. Heading each of the bureaus was a "Chief" to be appointed by the President of the United States.[3]

The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) became the central administrative headquarters for the Navy Medical Department, and those names became interchangeable. The general order of 26 November 1842, which defined the duties of the new bureaus, charged BUMED with:[3]

  • All medicines and medical stores of every description, used in the treatment of the sick, the diseased and the wounded;
  • All boxes, vials, and other vessels containing the same;
  • All clothing, beds, and bedding for the sick;
  • All surgical instruments of every kind;
  • The management of hospitals, so far as the patients therein are concerned;
  • All appliances of every sort, used in surgical and medical practice;
  • All contracts, accounts, and returns, relating to these and such other subjects as shall hereafter be assigned to this bureau.

Overseeing all of these duties, and directing the medical department, was the Chief of BUMED, William P. C. Barton. Barton served at this post until 1844. He was followed by Thomas Harris, William Whelan, Phineas Horwitz, and William Maxwell Wood. Since the days of Barton's directorship the most senior ranking physician in the Navy Medical Department has held the title of Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery.[3]

Creation of the title

On 3 March 1871, Congress passed legislation granting medical and other staff officers of the Navy "relative rank" with grades "equal to but not identical with the grades of the line." This Naval Appropriations Act went further than any previous Congressional action in transforming and enhancing the Navy Medical Department. The Chief of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery now had the additional title "Surgeon General," with the relative rank of Commodore. At the helm of this "revitalized" organization stood the first Surgeon General, William Maxwell Wood (1809–1880), a man entering his 42nd year of a naval service as unusual and varied as could be. Wood had served aboard USS Poinsett, one of the first steam vessels of the Navy, and designated flagship during the "expedition for the suppression of Indian hostilities on the coast of Florida" (a.k.a. the Seminole Wars). Wood served shore duty at Sackets Harbor, New York, Baltimore, Maryland, had duty as Fleet Surgeon of the Pacific Fleet, and served under Commodore John D. Sloat in California during the Mexican–American War. However fitting he may have been as the first Navy Surgeon General, he served less than two years.[citation needed]

Name Dates of Tenure
William P. C. Barton 1842–1844
Thomas Harris 1844–1853
William Whelan 1853–1865
Phineas J. Horwitz 1865–1869
William Maxwell Wood 1869–1871

List of Chiefs of BUMED and Surgeons General of the Navy

Surgeon General Date(s) of Tenure
CDRE William Maxwell Wood 1869–1871
CDRE Jonathan M. Foltz 1871–1872
CDRE James C. Palmer 1872–1873
CDRE Joseph Beale 1873–1877
CDRE William Grier 1877–1878
CDRE J. Winthrop Taylor 1878–1879
CDRE Phillip S. Wales 1878–1884
CDRE Francis M. Gunnell 1884–1888
CDRE J. Mills Browne 1888–1894
CDRE James R. Tryon 1894–1897
CDRE Newton L. Bates 1897
RADM William K. Van Reypen 1897–1902
RADM Presley Marion Rixey 1902–1910
RADM Charles F. Stokes 1910–1914
RADM William Clarence Braisted 1914–1920
RADM Edward R. Stitt 1920–1928
RADM Charles E. Riggs 1928–1933
RADM Percival S. Rossiter 1933–1938
VADM Ross T. McIntire 1938–1946
RADM Clifford A. Swanson 1946–1951
RADM H. Lamont Pugh 1951–1955
RADM Bartholomew W. Hogan 1955–1961
RADM Edward C. Kenney 1961–1965
VADM Robert B. Brown 1965–1969
VADM George M. Davis 1969–1973
VADM Donald L. Custis 1973–1976
VADM Willard P. Arentzen 1976–1980
VADM J. William Cox 1980–1983
VADM Lewis H. Seaton 1983–1987
VADM James A. Zimble 1987–1991
VADM Donald F. Hagen 1991–1995
VADM Harold M. Koenig 1995–1998
VADM Richard A. Nelson 1998–2001
VADM Michael L. Cowan[4] 2001–2004
VADM Donald Arthur 2004–2007
VADM Adam M. Robinson Jr. 2007–2011
VADM Matthew L. Nathan 2011–2015
VADM C. Forrest Faison III 2015–2019
RADM Bruce L. Gillingham 2019 - Present

See also


  1. ^ "United States Navy Flag Officers (June 2021 Roster)" (PDF). 1 June 2021. p. 67.
  2. ^ Past Leadership
  3. ^ a b c "About BUMED". U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. Archived from the original on 20 August 2014. Retrieved 19 August 2014.
  4. ^ "Vice Adm. Michael L. Cowan, USN (Ret)".

Further reading

  • Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, "The United States Navy Medical Department at War, 1941–1945." Washington, 1946. 757 pp.; describe the operational role of naval medical units ashore and afloat partly online
  • A History of Medicine in the Early U.S. Navy, Harold D. Langley Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000
  • The History of the Medical Department of the United States Navy in World War II (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1953) online

External links

  • Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery
  • Early Civil War Treatise on Gunshot Wounds By Surgeon General P.J. Horwitz Shapell Manuscript Foundation