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Medical News & Perspectives
October 22 2008

What Does the US Surgeon General Mean to the Health of the Nation?

JAMA. 2008;300(16):1869-1872. doi:10.1001/jama.300.16.1869

John Maynard Woodworth, MD, was a reformer before the term ever became popular.

In 1871, Woodworth was named supervising surgeon of the Marine Hospital Service (MHS), an underfunded, loosely organized network of local hospitals that cared for sick and injured merchant seamen. When he took over, he wasted little time in shoring up the service, which was headquartered in Washington, DC. He introduced a military model for the medical staff—physicians wore uniforms and were stationed at the various marine hospitals, based on need. Under his tutelage, the service also published annual reports of its activities.