Thursday, October 6, 2011

An Historical Overview of BUMED's Chiefs and Surgeons General of the U.S. Navy (1844-2011)

On 31 August 1842, Congress passed a Navy appropriations bill that was a blueprint for efficiency. The legislation provided for five administrative bureaus to replace the outdated Board of Navy Commissioners—Yards and Docks; Construction, Equipment, and Repair; Provisions and Clothing; Ordnance and Hydrography; and Medicine and Surgery. The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) soon became the central administrative headquarters for the Navy Medical Department and charged with oversight and policy relating to:

• All medicines and medical stores of every description, used in the treatment of the sick, the diseased and the wounded;
• All boxes, vials, and other vessels containing the same;
• All clothing, beds, and bedding for the sick;
• All surgical instruments of every kind;
• The management of hospitals, so far as the patients therein are concerned;
• All appliances of every sort, used in surgical and medical practice;
• All contracts, accounts, and returns, relating to these and such other subjects as shall hereafter be assigned to this bureau.

Each Bureau was headed by a chief appointed by the president. On 2 September 1842, Surgeon William P.C. Barton received orders to take the helm as BUMED’s first chief. On 3 March 1871, the "Chief of BUMED" was given the additional title of “Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy.” To date there have been, 41 Chiefs of BUMED and 36 Surgeons General of the U.S. Navy. Our 36th Surgeon General, VADM Adam M. Robinson, Jr. is scheduled to retire from the post in November 2011.

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