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Nurses as the Nation’s Key Health Architects: Building Health Care Systems Bridges


Rear Admiral Susan M. Orsega, MSN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN
U.S. Public Health Service Director of Commissioned Corps Headquarters, Office of the Surgeon General

As Director of Commissioned Corps Headquarters, RADM Susan Orsega is responsible for directing all functions regarding personnel, administration, operations, readiness, deployment and policy for the 6,000 officers of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. She is the principal advisor to the Surgeon General on activities and policies related to Commissioned Corps training, preparedness, activation, deployment and total force fitness. This includes overseeing the activation of the USPHS Commissioned Corps to support national COVID-19 vaccination efforts.

Appointed to this position in March 2019, Orsega is responsible for directing all functions regarding personnel, operations, readiness, deployment and policy for the Commissioned Corps and development of the Ready Reserve Corps. Orsega served as acting surgeon general from Jan. 26 to March 25, 2021, pending the Senate confirmation of Vivek H. Murthy as the 21st Surgeon General of the United States.

Orsega served as the chief nurse officer of the USPHS from May 2016 to March 2019. In this role, she advised the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention and career development of nurse professionals, and was responsible for providing leadership to 4,500 Commissioned Corps and civilian nurses. Prior to joining the Office of the Surgeon General to lead CCHQ, Orsega was assigned to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases of the National Institutes of Health. She was responsible for the operational management of international research that are U.S. Government to Government partnerships with South African and currently with Malian Government, involving 150 international nurses and researchers, and 500 research participants.

Since 2015, Orsega played a fundamental role in the U.S. Government NIH Ebola and Emerging Infectious Disease response. In 2015, at the height of Ebola, she was one of the U.S. NIH team members on the ground for first human vaccine trial in Liberia and Ebola Z-Mapp trial in Sierra Leone. As part of the U.S. NIH collaboration with the Mali government, she was responsible for the NIAID operations of the University Clinical Research Center. Her emphasis was focused on building the infrastructure and leading the operations of the US NIH Ebola Vaccine Trial in Mali and Emerging Infectious Disease Trial focused on early detection of suspicious febrile cases in that country.

In addition, Orsega has a distinguished public health emergency and disaster care experience ranging from an elite medical team after 9/11, as well as 14 other national and international disaster/humanitarian USG missions serving in roles with progressive nursing and leadership responsibilities. She was selected as the only USPHS officer on the Advance Planning team, USS Pacific Peleliu Navy ship health diplomacy mission.

Orsega began her career in the USPHS Commissioned Corps in 1989 at NIH. At that time, when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was unfolding, Orsega continued to advance her nursing and scientific knowledge with an emphasis on practice as a nurse practitioner. She recognized as a subject matter expert in realm of HIV/AIDS global research, advanced nursing practice, health diplomacy and disaster response. She has authored 19 articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented at 40 major scientific and nursing conferences around the world. Orsega is the recipient of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service in 2016, the distinguished Uniformed Services University Graduate of School of Nursing Alumni of the Year award in 2015, and NIH Director’s award in 2002.

Orsega earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Towson University and a Master’s of Science degree from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences Nurse Practitioner program. In 2013, she was inducted as a Fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners. In 2016, Orsega was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing.

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