United States Assistant Secretary for Health

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Assistant Secretary for Health
United States Public Health Service (seal).svg
Karen B. DeSalvo

since August 2014
Formation 2 November 1965
First holder Dr. Philip R. Lee
Website Official Website

The United States Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) serves as the Secretary of Health and Human Services's primary advisor on matters involving the nation's public health and, if serving as an active member in the regular corps, is the highest ranking uniformed officer in the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) The "ASH" holds the rank of a Full Admiral. The ASH oversees all matters pertaining to the Public Health Service (PHS), the main division of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), for the Secretary as well as provide strategic and policy direction for the PHSCC. The PHS comprises almost all the agency divisions of the HHS as well as the PHSCC, a uniformed service of more than 6,000 health professionals who serve at the HHS, other federal agencies, and/or are assigned details to the armed forces. The ASH is a civilian or a uniformed member of the regular corps and is nominated for appointment by the President. The nominee must also be confirmed via majority vote by the Senate. The ASH serves a four-year term of office at the pleasure of the President. If the appointee is a serving member of the regular corps, he or she is also appointed as a four-star admiral in the regular corps [1][2] . The President may also nominate a civilian appointee to also be appointed a commission in the regular corps if the nominee so chooses.[2][3] As such the position of ASH is the only office in the PHS that merits a four-star grade in the regular corps. Currently, the position of Assistant Secretary for Health is Dr. Karen DeSalvo.


The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and Scientific Affairs was established on January 1, 1967 following the Reorganization Plan No. 3 of 1966. The plan allowed the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to restructure the Public Health Service to better serve public health.[4] The office was renamed to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health following the Department of Education Organization Act in 1972.[4]

The stars, shoulder boards, and sleeve stripes of the Assistant Secretary for Health if serving in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

Assistant Secretary for Health

# Name Photo Term of Office Appointed by
Start End
1 Philip R. Lee

November 2, 1965 1969 Lyndon B. Johnson
2 Roger O. Egeberg

July 14, 1969 1971 Richard Nixon
3 Merlin K. DuVal

July 1, 1971 January 20, 1973
4 Charles C. Edwards

April 18, 1973 1975
5 Dr. Theodore Cooper

July 1, 1975 1977
6 VADM Julius B. Richmond Julius Richmond, Surgeon General official photo.jpg 1977 1981 Jimmy Carter
7 Edward N. Brandt, Jr.

May 14, 1981 1984 Ronald Reagan
8 Robert E. Windom

1986 1989
9 ADM James O. Mason James O. Mason.jpg 1989 1993 George H. W. Bush
10 Philip R. Lee

July 2, 1993 1998 Bill Clinton
11 ADM David Satcher David Satcher official photo portrait.jpg February 13, 1998 January 2001
12 Eve Slater

February 8, 2002 February 5, 2003 George W. Bush
(Acting) RADM Cristina V. Beato

February 5, 2003 December 17, 2005
13 ADM John O. Agwunobi John O Agwunobi.jpg December 17, 2005 September 4, 2007
14 ADM Joxel García ADM Joxel Garcia.jpg March 28, 2008 January 20, 2009
(Acting) RADM Steven K. Galson Steven K Galson.jpg January 22, 2009 June 22, 2009 Barack Obama
15 Howard K. Koh Howard K. Koh.jpg June 22, 2009 August 2014
16 Karen B. DeSalvo

August 2014


  1. "PHSCC Uniforms". Retrieved 2008-01-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 "42 USC 207. Grades, ranks, and titles of commissioned corps". Retrieved 2008-01-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Regular Corps Assimilation Program" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-01-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 [1] Records of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health [OASH].

External links