Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D.:
U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, the First Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women's Health and Senior Global Health Advisor
by Seymour “Sy” Brody
The United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (PHSCC) is the uniformed system of the United States Public Health Service, which is under the Department of Health and Human Services. They and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Corps (NOAA Corps) are the only two noncombatant uniform services in the country. Their officers wear the uniform of the U.S. Navy with the same rank, pay and benefits.
Rear Admiral Susan J. Blumenthal, M.D., M.P.A., an internationally recognized leader and expert, served as Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and Senior Global Health Advisor in the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). She is a Clinical Professor at Georgetown and Tufts Schools of Medicine and has served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor of Women’s Studies at Brandeis University.
For more than twenty years, Admiral Blumenthal has been a national leader and top government health official promoting better health care for the nation and the world. She has been a major force in bringing public health issues to the forefront of the nation’s health care agenda. She has made landmark contributions to advancing global health, disease and violence prevention, women’s health and mental health.
The hallmark of her work has been improving health care for women. When she was 10, her mother developed thyroid cancer and when she was in her last year of medical school, she watched her suffer and subsequently die of breast cancer. Dr. Blumenthal vowed then that she would be an advocate for improving health care for women. And she has. In the 1980’s, she played a pioneering role in exposing the inequities in women’s health care and lack of attention to health issues affecting women in the Federal government. As a result of her contributions to this field, she was appointed and served as the country’s first ever Deputy Assistant Secretary for Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 1993-1997. In this position she dramatically increased public, policymaker and scientific attention to women’s health issues. As the Director of the HHS Office on Women’s Health, she coordinated a $4 billion budget of research, services and education programs of the agencies and regional offices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. She served as the Co-chair of the National Action Plan on Breast Cancer, a Presidential initiative.
She also served as an advisor to the White House on women’s health. She worked with the government organizations, consumer and health care professional groups to advance women’s throughout the world.
Dr. Blumenthal has also been a pioneer in applying information technology to improve health. She established a unique initiative, “From Missiles to Mammograms” that transferred imaging technology from the CIA, Department of Defense, and NASA to improve the early detection of breast cancer. Admiral Blumenthal also created the National Centers of Excellence in Women’s Health Program at major academic health centers and the National Women’s Health Information Center to provide access to cutting edge health information available through a toll free telephone number and on the internet. She has established five award winning internet portals for health information.
Dr. Blumenthal has also been a leader in global health. She was involved in the national response to bioterrorism and pandemic flu. She is currently the Senior Policy and Medical Advisor at amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research and the Director of the Health and Medicine Program at the Center for the Study of the Presidency (CSP). During her government service, she established a Middle East Health Initiative and now at Center for the Study of the Presidency is directing a project to foster knowledge exchange and dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian health experts.
Rear Admiral Blumenthal has chaired many committees, conferences, and commissions on health issues. She has appeared on television and radio to enlighten the world about the need for better health care and for increasing scientific research. She served as the Medical Director and Host for an award winning television series on health and for a Discovery Channel/American Film Institute Global Health Documentary Film Series. She has been the health columnist for US News and World Report and several women’s magazines. Dr. Blumenthal has written many scientific articles and edited books on health issues.
Admiral Blumenthal is a member of the Board of Directors of several philanthropic and educational organizations. She has received numerous awards including an honorary doctorate from Ben Gurion University presented to her by President Shimon Peres, the Woman of Valor and Myrtle Wreath Awards from Hadassah, the Presidential Medallion from Brandeis University, and has been decorated with the highest medals of the United States Public Health Service for her landmark contributions to improving health. She has been an inspiring role model and mentor for thousands of medical and public health students. Dr. Blumenthal has been designated as one of the most influential and important women in medicine by the New York Times, National Library of Medicine and the Medical Herald.
Today, Rear Admiral Susan Blumenthal, a health heroine, continues her advocacy and national leadership to improve health care for people in the United States and around the world.
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