BILL F. PEARSON
THE EIGHTH CHIEF ENGINEER OF THE USPHS COMMISSIONED CORPS
Chief Engineer: 1989-1993
Billy F. Pearson was born in Hobart, Oklahoma in 1934, and was known to all as “Bill.” A member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, his professional career in the PHS was devoted entirely to serving American Indians and Alaska Natives while assigned to the Indian Health Service (IHS). That work ranged from field level engineering, to ultimately directing all of IHS’s Engineering and Environmental Health programs.
After service in the U. S. Army from 1956 to 1958 in the 82nd Airborne Division and work as a surveyor for the Bureau of Land Management in Alaska, he entered the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology where in 1964 he received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering. He received a master of science in civil engineering degree with a specialization in public health from the University of Hawaii in 1968.
Bill Pearson joined the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps in 1964 as a project engineer for the IHS sanitation facilities construction program at the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and later moved to the IHS Aberdeen Area Office as a design engineer. His subsequent IHS assignments included facilities construction duties in the Oklahoma City Area office and service as Chief of Facilities Construction for the Navajo Area Office in Window Rock, Arizona. He later returned to the Aberdeen Area Office to serve as director of the environmental health programs. In 1976 he began a long period of service at IHS headquarters, beginning with his posting for eight years as Director of the Office of Environmental Health and later as Associate IHS Director for Administration and Management with broad responsibilities for overall agency leadership. In 1986 he became Associate IHS Director for Environmental Health and Engineering, and prior to retiring in 1994 he served as Acting Director of Headquarters Operations.
As Associate Director for Environmental Health and Engineering, Pearson was responsible for a broad spectrum of public health programs, but is credited most for working with Congress and the Administration to implement a long overdue program of replacing and modernizing many Indian hospitals.
In his own words, Pearson noted: “I felt honored to have participated in the Public Health Service’s remarkable improvement in the health and well being of the American Indians and Alaska Natives for 30 years. When I entered the PHS in 1964 the Infant Mortality Rate of the American Indian & Alaska Natives was comparable to the deplorable rates of many under-developed, impoverished nations. When I retired in 1994 the Infant Mortality Rate of the American Indian & Alaska Native was better than the U.S. ‘All Races Infant Mortality Rate.’ Additionally, the PHS contributed significantly to the progress of the tribal governments around the nation in the implementation of the Indian Self-Determination Act.”
In addition to his work for the American Indian and Alaska Native, Pearson was active in global health through special short-term assignments to Malaysia and the Pacific Basin where his knowledge of cross cultural health practices and use of indigenous resources for environmental control permitted him to introduce major improvements in the public health practices in those areas.
In 1989, he was elevated to the post of Assistant Surgeon General with the corresponding rank of Rear Admiral (RADM). He was also appointed as Chief Engineer, a post he held until 1993.
During his career, RADM Pearson served on a variety of professional society boards including the PHS Commissioned Officers Association. He service on the PHS Engineers Professional Advisory Committee was from 1976 to 1984 and included seven years as its chair. RADM Pearson is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Environmental Engineers, and a registered Professional Engineer in Colorado, Hawaii, and Oklahoma and a Registered Land Surveyor in Oklahoma.
Among his many PHS awards are two Distinguished Service Medals, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Surgeon General’s Exemplary Service Medal. He was also named the Federal Environmental Engineer of the year in 1980.
After his retirement from the PHS in 1994 he founded and serves as President of Natural Healing, Inc. and Natural Healing USA, Inc. and manages natural healing centers in the State of Maryland.