Public Health Service Representative



The Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) mission is to “protect, promote, and advance the health and safety of the nation.” The U.S. Public Health Service is the uniformed service branch of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Physical Therapists in the PHS serve as one of eight uniformed services along with the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Space Force, Coast Guard, and Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

Origins of the U.S. Public Health Service date back to 1798 when Congress passed the Act for the Relief of Sick and Disabled Seamen that formed the basis of the Marine Hospital Service. The mission of the Marine Hospital Service was to ensure the safety of U.S. Ports of entry from disease and care for seaman who were sick and injured. 1889 the Commissioned Corps was formally established within the Marine Hospital Service, creating a uniformed service with military commissions, ranks, and responsibilities.1 Commissioned officer's responsibilities expanded as the United States grew in size and population. In 1953 the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare was created and today is known as the Department of Health and Human Services which touches the lives of more Americans than any other Federal agency. “It is a department of people serving people, from newborn infants to persons requiring health services to our most elderly citizens.”2


Commissioned Officers of the PHS can be assigned to any of the 12 operating divisions within the Department of Health and Human Services or to other federal Departments such as the Department of Defense, Homeland Security (U.S. Coast Guard), or Department of Justice (Federal Bureau of Prisons). PHS physical therapists primarily provide patient care within the Indian Health Service, Federal Bureau of Prisons, and Department of Defense. However physical therapists may also perform clinical, research, regulatory, and administrative functions in many agencies within the Department of Health & Human Services. OPERATING DIVISIONS WITH PHS COMMISSIONED OFFICERS

Department of Health & Human Services Agencies:

 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

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Epidemic Intelligence Service

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Food and Drug Administration

Health Resources and Services Administration

National Hansen’s Disease Program

Indian Health Service

National Institutes of Health

Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response

Office of the Assistant Secretary of Health

Office of the Surgeon General 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration 

Agencies outside of the Department of Health & Human Services:

Central Intelligence Agency

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

Department of Defense

Defense Intrepid Network 

Medical Research and Materiel Command

Select Military Treatment Facilities as a Public Health Emergency Response Stike Team Officer (PHERST)

Department of Homeland Security

U.S. Coast Guard

Department of the Interior

National Park Service

Department of Justice

Federal Bureau of Prisons

U.S. Marshals Service

U.S. Department of Agriculture

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency


1. Williams CL join(’ ', Mullan F. Plagues and politics: The story of the United States public health service. doi:10.2307/3343062

2. Federal Accessed March 7, 2024.