This photograph is of John Maynard Woodworth, (1837-1879), the first Surgeon General. The position was first created in 1871 in order to head the Marine Hospital Service, which existed "for the relief of sick and disabled seamen." The first marine hospitals had inadequate funding and were politically influenced. It was the reorganization of 1870 which created a need for leadership. Given his educational and professional background (he had served significant roles such as Assistant Surgeon to the Union Army and Sanitary Inspector of the Chicago Board of Heath), Woodworth was a promising canidate.
The Marine Hospital Service underwent many changes under his leadership. Reforms included examinations for medical staff (they were previously appointed on recomendation of the Collector of Customs) and the publications of annual reports. Before his appointment, physicians served in only one facility. However, Woodworth assigned his physicians to various marine hospitals as needed, therefore creating a mobile workforce. As the organization became more involved in public health, John Woodworth helped pave the way for its development into what is now known as the Public Health Service.
Appointed in 1871, John M. Woodworth was the first Surgeon General, a position originally created to control the Marine Hospital Service. Throughout the history of our healthcare system, the role has gone through many changes, but its primary function has always been to promote health and prevent disease.
Today, the position of Surgeon General is quite proactive, educating Americans on important public health issues through public appearances, reports, and speeches. It serves an advisory function for both the Secretary of Health and Human Services and the Assistant Secretary of Health, focusing on medicine, preventive health, and health policy.
Originally, Surgeons General were responsible for the administrative duties of the U.S. Public Health Service and directed many physicians, nurses, and other health professionals of the Commissioned Corps. However, reform in 1968 changed matters significantly. The Office (although not the position) of the Surgeon General was abolished, and PHS administration was delegated to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (known as the Department of Health and Human Services since 1980).
John Maynard Woodworth. (2007, Jan 4). U.S. Department of Health & Human Service: Surgeon General. Retrieved Oct 15, 2012, from http://1.usa.gov/RZQNnL
The Reports of the Surgeon. (n.d.). U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved Oct 15, 2012 from http://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/ps/retrieve/Narrative/NN/p-nid/58