Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Black Commissioned Officers Advisory Group



The BCOAG Logo symbolizes life and health with medicine as the art that brings out the best in these two gifts to human beings. The symbol is designed to serve as an inspiration for U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Officers who are of African descent to continue in the traditions of our illustrious ancestors to bring an enhanced life, optimum health, and peace to all. A brief explanation is provided below of many of the exoteric aspects of the Logo.

Black Color

Scientifically, black is not a hue (color). A "black body" in physics is a perfect absorber of light. It is an object that absorbs all electromagnet radiation that falls onto it. The object does not reflect radiation, and no radiation passes through it. In practical terms, black is both a color and the shade of objects that do not reflect light in any part of the visible spectrum. In the BCOAG Logo, black also refers to one of the earliest names for the country that the Greeks named Egypt. The word, kmt (in today"s written form"Kemet, Kemit, Khemit, Kamit, or Khamit)--in the Ancient Egyptian language is translated to mean "black," "land of the blacks," or "the black land." Khem (also, Chem) is the Egyptian word for black. The word "alchemy" the origin of chemistry, and the word chemistry--are both derived from this word. "Western science" including medicine--has its origin in Kemet, and Kemet gave the world its first medical literature in the form of medical papyri. The Egyptians have been described as the "light" of the Ancient World.

Gold Color

Gold is probably the first metal that was used by human beings. Egypt and Nubia were major gold-producing areas throughout most of recorded history. Gold is the most malleable and conductive metal. Gold is a good conductor of electricity and heat. Gold is also symbolic of purity, value, and royalty. The Ancient alchemists sought to transform base metals into gold Although most people took this process to mean a literal "turning lead or another base metal into gold," the true meaning is thought to have been to transform or transmute the lower or baser nature of human beings into a purer or higher nature. In other places, gold has been mentioned as that which denotes generosity. Gold has also been referred to as that which promotes higher aspirations or an elevation or enlightenment of the mind.

White Color

Technically, white is not a color, it is actually a combination of all of the colors of the visible light spectrum. Many of the world"s ancient and modern traditions describe two primal opposing (but complementary) forces in all things that are found in the universe. In Chinese philosophy, Yin represents the darker element. It is passive, dark, feminine, downward-seeking, and corresponds to the night. Contrarily, Yang is the active, light, masculine, upward-seeking force that corresponds to the day. Yin is often symbolized by water or earth, while Yang is symbolized by fire or wind. Therefore, white simply denotes the complement to black. Just as black absorbs all hues, white reflects all hues.


The Ancient Egyptian Imhotep, who lived around 3000 BCE, is the first physician who is known by name in history. The name means "the one who comes in peace." He is considered by many to be the world"s first scientist, and is credited with coining the phrase "Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we shall die." Imhotep is also the world"s first identified architect and he served under King Zoser of the Third Dynasty in Egypt. He designed and built Egypt"s first pyramid at Saqqara (also, Sakkara). He was one of the most accomplished human beings on record. His other skills included those of a scribe, poet, astrologer, astronomer, high priest, and magician. His best known written works are medical writings. Many believe that he wrote the Edwin Smith Papyrus in which more than 90 anatomical terms and over 40 injuries are described. Imhotep is recognized by the Greeks who sent their young men to Egypt to learn mathematics and the sciences"including the medical sciences"as their own Asclepius (also, Aesculapius). Unfortunately, the Greeks wanted the world to believe they were the originators of everything, and Imhotep became "forgotten" for about 2,000 years when Hippocrates (a legendary figure) was named the "Father" of Medicine.

Medu Neter (Egyptian Hieroglyphics)

Hieroglyphs in Ancient Egypt were the mystical Medu Neter. This term means "words of God," "divine words," "sacred words," or something that conveyed this meaning. There are two Medu Neters in the BCOAG Logo. These are the ankh and the "fold of cloth." The ankh is well-known. It is the Egyptian Cross or "crux ansata" Latin for "cross with a handle." This symbol will be described first.


The precise significance of the ankh in Ancient Egyptian culture has eluded Egyptologists, and no single hypothesis has been widely accepted. However, its importance has existed for centuries, and it is sometimes referred to as the "Key of Life," or as simply "life." Some have asserted that this symbol represents the union of the male and female principles. It is believed that placing the ankh in front of a king"s nostrils in Ancient Egypt symbolized the "breath of eternal life." During the Amarna period, the ankh was depicted being offered to Akhenaten and Nefertiti by hands at the ends of rays that descended from the solar disk Aten. Therefore, it is believed that the ankh is not only a symbol of worldly life but also of life "on the other side." The ankh is found on monuments and on tomb inscriptions as well as on papyri. The ankh forms part of words for such concepts as "health" and "happiness." It was gradually adopted by the fourth century Christian church in Egypt. This church eventually became the Coptic Church.

Fold of Cloth

The "Fold of Cloth" is the second Medu Neter in the BCOAG Logo. It is the ancient symbol that signifies "health." It is usually found as part of the expression that frequently followed royal names. The translation of the expression is "life! strength! health!," or "life, prosperity, and health."


The caduceus is a winged staff with two snakes wrapped around it. In the Greek it is kerykeion. In this form, it represents the staff carried by Hermes (Mercury), the "messenger of the gods" and signifies "peace." Among the Greeks it became the badge of heralds and ambassadors. It signified their inviolability. The similarity of the caduceus to the staff of Asclepius the healer (single snake with no wings) resulted in modern times for the adoption of the caduceus as the symbol of the physician, of medicine and healing, and as a symbol for many medical organizations throughout the world.

Year 1990

This is the year that the BCOAG received its first charter. The predecessor of the BCOAG (the Black Commissioned Officers Steering Committee BCOSC) had functioned from 1987 until 1990. Prior to this time, there were other Black officer groups such as the Black Caucus of the USPHS Hospital which functioned in Baltimore, Maryland for the period 1978 until 1980.

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Page Last Modified on 12/17/2012

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