Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Environmental Health Officer Professional Advisory Committee

The following excerpt from A Brief History of the Sanitarian Category was provided by the PHS Historian.  The information includes PHS milestones that influenced the growth and number of officers in the Category.


  • The first sanitarians, Louis J. Ogden and Robert D. Murrill, were called to active duty as Assistant Sanitarians on 1 February 1943. Assignments during and after World War II included:
    • Malaria control activities near military training bases in the southern U.S.
    • United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency (UNRRA) in North Africa and Greece Malaria control activities in Turkey as part of the Marshall Plan
    • Environmental health services (water purification, sewage disposal, food sanitation, insect and rodent control, etc.) for housing projects for the Federal Public Housing Authority (a wartime agency).


  • Sanitarian Category established in the Regular Corps. At this time the category accepted individuals with backgrounds in entomology, physics, chemistry, etc. Development of training for State environmental health officials after WW II began during this time.
    • This was accomplished through field training stations of the Communicable Disease Center, or its predecessor.
    • The training provided a 3 month course in field application of all environmental health activities to U.S. and foreign sanitarians.


  • In the 1950's sanitarians were first assigned to the Agency for International Development and served abroad in such programs as malaria control and water supply.


  • The Sanitarian category, due to the authorizing language of the PHS Acts of 1943 and 1944 was a catch all category composed of any officer who didn't fit into another category. In 1952 the non-sanitarians were removed from the category resulting in a steep drop in category strength throughout the remainder of the 1950's. The remaining officers were mainly in CDC and the PHS Division of Environmental Health.


  • 1958 saw the establishment of the Health Service Category which made it possible for the Sanitarian Category to be limited to true professional sanitarians.


  • In the early 1960's, sanitarians from the PHS, working with other sanitarians, developed a sample curriculum that would prepare an individual to work in the environmental health field. This provided the impetus for the later formation of the Accreditation Council whose function was to accredit environmental health curriculum at colleges and universities.


  • P.L. 86-121, The Indian Sanitation Facilities Construction Act, was passed. The law authorized USPHS to construct individual and community water and waste disposal systems for American Indian and Alaska Native homes. Funding provided by P.L. 86-121 enabled the Indian Health Service to hire PHS Sanitarians resulting in IHS having the majority of Sanitarians in PHS. While the law was passed in 1959, the first budget year was 1962.


  • Darold W. Taylor designated the first Public Health Service Liaison Officer for Sanitarian Category.


  • Development of initial CDC home study courses in environmental health by C. Bradley Bridges.
  • Creation of the American Intersociety Academy for the Certification of Sanitarians. Several PHS sanitarians were founders of this organization.


  • By executive order President Lyndon Johnson ordered the reorganization of the USPHS without the oversight of Congress. The Surgeon General was placed under a new political appointee position, the Assistant Secretary of Health. Over the next 2 years, PHS went through multiple reorganizations with components broken up and responsibilities moved to new organizations. One of the changes was the Sanitarians and responsibility for food safety and inspection was moved from the PHS Division of Environmental Health to the Food and Drug Administration.


  • The establishment of the Sanitarian Career Service Board.
    • This became the Sanitarian Career Development Committee and is now called the Sanitarian Professional Advisory Committee (SPAC).
    • The SPAC has operated continuously since 1968, but in 1999 became the Environmental Health Officer Professional Advisory Committee (EHOPAC).
  • Residency program developed at the PHS Hospital in New Orleans, together with Tulane University, to train sanitarians as Institutional Control Officers. H. Harold Lehman was the first sanitarian to complete this residency.


  • The 1943 appointment standards required an MPH degree for commissioning in the category. By the late 1960's as the environmental movement increased the demand for Sanitarians and more undergrad EH programs were established, the appointment standards were changed to include officers with undergrad degrees in the reserve corps. The shortage of sanitarians prompted HEW to offer health profession scholarships to Sanitarian students with a pay back obligation in PHS.


  • By executive order President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. EPA was created by combining multiple existing federal programs, including the remaining components of the old PHS Division of Environmental Health, at the time composed mostly of PHS Engineers.


  • John G. Todd, Dr. P.H. was appointed the 2nd Liaison Officer for the Sanitarian Category. This title later was changed to the Chief Sanitarian Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.


  • The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry was created by the Superfund Act. The first Sanitarians were assigned to ATSDR in 1988.


  • Davis Calvin Wagner Award was established for sanitarians by former Assistant Surgeon General, Dr. Carruth J. Wagner. Dr. Wagner served in a variety of important administrative positions in the PHS. Truman L. McCasland, Dr. P.H. became the Director of the PHS Hospital in San Francisco.


  • In response to the Office of Management and Budgets effort to eliminate the Corps, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop initiates a series of initiatives to “Revitalize” the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service. One of the initiatives was to increase the visibility of the corps by resumption of wearing the uniform by PHS officers.


  • Geswaldo A. Verrone, Dr. P.H. was appointed the 3rd Chief Sanitarian Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.


  • The model charter for Professional Advisory Committees, which borrowed heavily from the Sanitarian's Charter, was adopted.
  • Richard Driscoll became the first sanitarian to be accepted to the Epidemiological Investigative Service of CDC.
  • Sanitarians assisted in emergency situations both domestically and abroad which included the Teton dam collapse in Idaho, Cuban-Haitian influx, and the Sudan.


  • Bruce R. Chelikowsky, RS, MPH was appointed the 4th Chief Sanitarian Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.


  • Ralph J. Touch, RS, PhD was appointed the 5th Chief Sanitarian Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • 1994 was also the 50th anniversary of Sanitarian Category.


  • After decades of debate, the Sanitarian appointment standards were significantly changed in 1997. The new standards created 4 career tracks (general EH, Industrial Hygiene, Occupational Health and Safety, and Health Physicist) to reflect the different types of Sanitarians commissioned by PHS. Each career track was given different appointment requirements.


  • Thomas E. Crow, RS, MS was appointed the 6th Chief Sanitarian Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • The name of the Category was changed to Environmental Health Officer Category on October 1, 1999.
  • Likewise, the Sanitarian Professional Advisory Committee (SPAC) was changed to the Environmental Health Officer Professional Advisory Committee (EHOPAC).


  • Randy E. Grinnell, RS, MS was appointed the 7th Chief Environmental Health Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.
  • Readiness and response in the PHS Corps received renewed emphasis following the attacks of Sept 11, 2001 and the Anthrax poisoning deaths.
  • Surgeon General Carmona and HHS Secretary Thompson instituted initiatives to "Transform" to corps by increasing the readiness of officers, the initiatives included new Response related positions filled by EHO's in the HHS Office of Secretary.


  • Craig A. Shepherd, RS, MPH, DAAS was appointed the 8th Chief Environmental Health Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.


  • Michael M. Welch, REHS, MS, DAAS was appointed the 9th Chief Environmental Health Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.


  • The Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 eliminated the reserve corps of USPHS, the EHO category's reserve corps appointment standards were adopted as the new EHO Regular Corps appointment standards.


  • CAPT Alan Parham RS, MPH was appointed the 10th Chief Environmental Health Officer of the U.S. Public Health Service.

Page Last Modified on 9/15/2015

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