President Joe Biden has appointed Susan Orsega to serve as acting surgeon general, according to a posting on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website.
Orsega, who has served as the director of commissioned corps headquarters at the Office of the Surgeon General since March 2019, will be among a handful of nurses appointed to fill the role of surgeon general.
"Rear Admiral Orsega is a longtime champion of public health whose visionary leadership has strengthened health care equity and access for our nation," said American Association of Nurse Practitioners president Sophia L. Thomas in a statement.
WHY IT MATTERS
The surgeon general, which HHS refers to as "the Nation's Doctor," provides members of the public health information and oversees the more than 6,000 uniformed public health professionals in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.
As a nurse practitioner and AANP fellow, Orsega worked at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health before being named chief nurse officer of the USPHS in 2016.
She has extensive public health emergency and disaster care experience, having served on 15 national and international disaster U.S. government missions. She was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing in 2016.
Orsega will serve as surgeon general pending the Senate confirmation of Dr. Vivek H. Murthy.
As noted by Daily Nurse, previous nurse Surgeon Generals have included Sylvia Trent-Adams – appointed in 2017 by former President Donald Trump – and Richard Henry Carmona, appointed in 2002 by former President George W. Bush.
THE LARGER TREND
Biden has spent his first week in office making a number of major health-related moves, including appointing several people to key HHS positions and releasing a data-driven plan for addressing the COVID-19 crisis.
At the same time, he has put the brakes on several of Trump's last-minute regulatory attempts, enacting a freeze on a number of rules the former president made after the 2020 election.
ON THE RECORD
Orsega's "experience and training as a [nurse practitioner], combined with her unrivaled expertise in both public health and disaster response, are exactly what our nation needs to navigate our country's current health care challenges," said Thomas.
"We are honored that an AANP Fellow will serve in this capacity and look forward to working with her as we combat COVID-19 and meet the health care needs of all Americans," she added.