CHRIS A. HANSEN, P.E.
Assistant Surgeon General
Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret.)
Chris A. Hansen was born on September 17, 1915 in Guelph, North Dakota. His career included service as a county engineer, a state level engineer, as a Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps officer, and as Vice President of Georgetown University. While a PHS officer, he contributed to major segments of the Service including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from its beginnings as the Malaria Control in War Areas program, the National institutes of Health, and the several PHS organizational units containing the environmental health programs of the Service.
Hansen received a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering from the North Dakota State College in Fargo in 1937 and a Master of Science Degree in Sanitary Engineering from the University of North Carolina, School of Public Health in 1942.
After graduation from undergraduate school, Hansen worked for a short time as a county engineer in Dickey County, North Dakota and then moved to Georgia where he served for three years as a public health engineer in a joint program with the Fulton County Health Department and the Georgia State Health Department in Atlanta, Georgia.
In July 1937 in Albany, Georgia, Chris Hansen married Mary Elizabeth Runice of Fargo, North Dakota. They had two daughters Elizabeth and Kristie. Mary Hanson passed away in 1992.
Hansen was commissioned as a PHS engineer in May of 1941 and then took a leave of absence in June of 1941 to attend graduate school at the University of North Carolina. He returned to active duty as a sanitary engineer in Atlanta, Georgia in June of 1942 shortly after the beginning of World War II, and was assigned to the Malaria Control in War Areas(MCWA) program, a predecessor organization of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The MCWA was directed to developing mosquito-free zones within a one-mile radius around each military and industrial establishment serving the war effort in fifteen southeastern states, as well as California, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the U. S. related Caribbean areas. The program was later assigned responsibility for control of dengue, typhus, and other communicable diseases.
Following the end of the war, MCWA program operations were re-directed from war-related efforts to more general communicable disease problems affecting the nation as a whole and MCWA became the Communicable Disease Center (CDC), with its headquarters remaining in Atlanta, Georgia. Hansen was appointed chief of the Engineering Division of CDC in 1946, a post he held until 1948. In that year he was appointed Executive Assistant of the Center and in 1949 he was named as the Center’s Assistant Executive Office. He held that position until 1950 when he was named Chief of an enlarged Engineering Services unit. In 1952 he was named Executive Officer of CDC, a post he held for one year before becoming the Assistant Officer in Charge of the Center in 1952, a position he held for four years.
In 1956, Hansen began a twelve-year appointment as Chief of the Division of Research Services at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). NIH at the time was on the threshold of a major expansion of the campus facilities in support of research and all engineering activities were scattered and operated independently. During his tenure he developed a campus master plan and centralized the source of technical and professional research support to the NIH in the major areas of biomedical engineering, laboratory resources and computer related resources. While his professional background was a major element in the successful development of an effective engineering program, he also demonstrated his ability to comprehend the scope and quality of non-engineering professional skills needed to support a massive health and medical research effort at that premier institution.
In 1967 a reorganization of the PHS created the Bureau of Disease Prevention and Environmental Control and in 1968 Hansen was selected to head that Bureau. Concurrent with that July 1, 1968 appointment, he was promoted to Assistant Surgeon General with the equivalent rank of Rear Admiral (RADM) in the USPHS Commissioned Corps
The Bureau was to be short lived as a new reorganization created the Consumer Protection and Environmental Health Service which contained programs from that Bureau plus the Food and Drug Administration. In 1969 RADM Hansen became a key member of that Service serving through March of 1970 when he retired from the PHS.
After retirement from the Corps, RADM Hansen was appointed as Vice President for Planning and Physical Plant at Georgetown University in Washington, DC; a post he held until 1973. He remained for a time in the Washington area, serving as an engineering consultant. He and his wife Mary moved to Sun City, Arizona where he was involved in a variety of environmental and community organizations including the Nature Conservancy and Habitat for Humanity.
RADM Hansen was a registered professional engineer in the State of Maryland. He received the Public Health Service Meritorious Service Medal and a variety of other awards from professional public health and engineering societies. He was a lifelong member of the PHS Commissioned Officer Association and a variety of national engineering associations.
RADM Hansen passed away on January 8, 2006 in Westport, Massachusetts. His second wife, Jean, also died in January of 2006.