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May 11, 2017

Nurse Appointed As Acting Surgeon General

Nurse Appointed As Acting Surgeon General


When President Trump requested the resignation of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD in April, no one knew that the acting Surgeon General appointed by the president would be a nurse. 

Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, PhD, RN served as General Murthy’s deputy under the Obama administration, and she is now the acting Surgeon General of the United States. 

Admiral Trent-Adams is the first non-physician to serve as Surgeon General, and one of the first nurses to hold the position. Dr. Richard Carmona, an appointee of George W. Bush, was both a nurse and a physician. 

Surgeon General Murthy Responds

In response to his dismissal, General Murthy posted the following statement on his public Facebook page: 

I have been deeply touched by the expressions of kindness I have received from people around the country and around the world in the last 36 hours. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Many have asked why I chose not to resign as Surgeon General when I was asked to do so. My reason was simple: because I would never willfully abandon my commitment to my Commissioned Corps officers, to the American people, and to all who have stood with me to build a healthier and more compassionate America.

While that decision to stand on principle resulted in my termination prior to the end of my four-year term, I know that the Office of the Surgeon General is greater than any one person and its mission must continue.

The new Acting Surgeon General, Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, is the right person to step into this role. She has dedicated the past 30 years to our nation serving in the Army and in the U.S. Public Health Service. Her deep wealth of experience is matched only by the immense size of her heart. I know she will serve with distinction.

Nurses Applaud

Teri Mills, the President of the National Nursing Network Organization, is a long-time backer of the push for the appointment of a National Nurse For Public Health to work alongside the Surgeon General. She made the following statement on Facebook about Rear Admiral Trent-Adams: 

Wishing Acting Surgeon General RADM Sylvia Trent-Adams the very best during her promotion from Deputy SG to Acting SG. This took place on April 21st when Surgeon General Vivek Murthy was fired by the current administration. 

RADM Trent Adams is a nurse and she is an incredibly accomplished and qualified long time member of the Public Health Service. We are fortunate she is able to step into this role until a SG is nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. SG Murthy– you will be missed.

The American Nurses Association also praised Trent-Adams on their website: 

The American Nurses Association (ANA) applauds the appointment of Sylvia Trent-Adams, PhD, RN, FAAN, to the position of Acting U.S. Surgeon General.  Dr. Trent-Adams, a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, was appointed to this position on April 21, 2017.  Previously, she served as Deputy Surgeon General in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps.

“Throughout her career, Dr. Trent-Adams has been a champion for public health with a clear focus on improving access to care, particularly for poor and underserved communities,” said ANA President Pamela F. Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.  “As a nurse, she brings a unique set of perspectives and experiences to the public health arena.  We congratulate her and are pleased to continue to work with her in this new capacity as we pursue our mission to improve health for all Americans.”

Dr. Trent-Adams served as Chief Nurse Officer of USPHS from November 2013 through May 2016. In this role, she advised the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention, and career development of Corps nurse professionals.  Prior to joining USPHS, she was a nurse officer in the U.S. Army.

Nurses in the News

For nurses throughout the United States, the appointment of a nurse to the office of Surgeon General – if only temporarily – is yet another affirmation of the near universal trust placed in nurses. 

When nurses make high-profile news, the professional standing of all nurses is uplifted. Furthermore, nurses then have the opportunity to envision even greater potential for themselves and their careers. 

We at wish Admiral Trent-Adams all the best in her elevated position, and we have no doubt she will make the nursing profession proud. 

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Keith Carlson, BSN, RN, NC-BC is a Board-Certified Nurse Coach, award-winning blogger, nurse podcaster, speaker, and author. Based in Sante Fe, New Mexico, Nurse Keith’s work has appeared in a variety of online and print publications.

*Image By USPHS, via Wikimedia Commons


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