US Public Health Service

Public Health Service Representative

TaNesha Nobles McCulley, PT, DPT 


The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) is one of seven uniformed services along with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The U.S Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force are within the Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Coast Guard, within the Department of Homeland Security. These five services compose the armed services of the military. The remaining two services also are uniformed, but not armed services, and are located in other federal departments. NOAA is within the Department of Commerce, and the PHS within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Although the U.S. Public Health Service may be less familiar than our sister armed services, it can trace its origins back to 1798. It was in this year that Congress passed an act for the relief of sick and disabled seamen that formed the basis of the Marine Hospital Service. In 1889, the Commissioned Corps was formally established within the Marine Hospital Service. The current mission of the Public Health Service is protecting, promoting and advancing the health and safety of the nation.

Nearly all the uniformed health care providers serving in the U.S. Coast Guard are PHS commissioned officers. The relationship between the two services dates back to the 1798 Act that created the Marine Hospital Service.


Commissioned Officers of the PHS can be assigned to any of 12 operating divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services and elsewhere in the federal government. Indian Health Service and the Federal Bureau of Prisons are the most common duty stations for PHS therapists.

Throughout the PHS, physical therapists support or have performed clinical, research, regulatory, and administrative functions at various operating divisions to protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the nation. These include assignment locations, such as the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Food and Drug Administration, and agencies you may not expect, such as the US Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency.


– Administration for Children and Families

– Administration on Aging

– Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

– Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to include National Institute for 

  Occupational Safety and Health

– Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

– Food and Drug Administration

– Health Resources and Services Administration, to include National Hansen’s 

   Disease Program

– Indian Health Service

– National Institutes of Health

– Office of the Secretary, to include the Office of the Surgeon General 

– Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

– Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

– Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 

– Commission on Mental Health Services/St. Elizabeth’s Hospital

– Federal Bureau of Prisons

– Central Intelligence Agency

– Department of Homeland Security, to include U.S. Coast Guard

– Department of Defense, to include Tricare Management Activity, U.S. Army, 

   U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force

– Medical Research and Materiel Command

– Environmental Protection Agency

– Department of the Interior, to include the National Park Service

– U.S. Department of Agriculture

– U.S. Marshals Service


  1. Mullan, Fitzhugh. Plagues and Politics: The Story of the United States Public Health Service. New York: Basic Books, 1989.
  2. Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service:
  3. Student Opportunities

Army Service

Physical therapy began in the military with the treatment


Air Force Service

Air Force physical therapists use state-of-the-art


Navy/Marines Service

Navy physical therapists are members of the U.S. Navy


VA Service

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is responsible