Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Engineer Professional Advisory Committee




Chief Engineer: 1974-1985

Ian Kelso Burgess, born in1929 in Norfolk, Virginia, was known to his friends and colleagues as “Ike.” He served as a Public Health Service officer for 28 years and as the Chief Engineer for an eleven year period. His work in facilities planning and management set a standard for effective application of engineering professionalism in the Federal health service.

Ike Burgess received a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering in 1950 and a Master of Science degree in sanitary engineering in 1954 from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. He served in the Army 65th Engineer Combat Brigade in 1951 and 1952, and was assigned to Korea during the Korean War. On October 16, 1955, he married Eleanor Yurkon in Amsterdam, NY.

After service in Korea, he took a post as a sanitary engineer with the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in Maryland and served there from 1953 to 1955. He was commissioned in the Public Health Service in January of 1956 and began his service in the Division of Water Supply and Pollution Control, first in Washington, DC, and in 1957 at the Chicago Regional Office. From 1957 to 1959 he took leave from the Corps to serve in the environmental sanitation program at the Prince George’s County Health Department in suburban Washington, DC.

He returned to serve as a PHS officer in1960 with the Division of Water Supply and Pollution Control in Washington, DC through 1962 when he became the engineering placement officer in the PHS Office of Personnel. In 1963 he was posted as construction liaison officer in the Office of the Surgeon General, a position he held until 1966 when he became Director of the Office of Buildings and Facilities in that same office. From 1970 to 1973 he headed the engineering consultation staff of the Health Services and Mental Health Administration. In 1973 he became Director of Health Facilities Planning for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, a post he was to hold until his retirement. In this position, he was over facilities planning, acquisition, and utilization for 2,300 facilities including the PHS Marine hospital system and the Indian Health Service facilities.

In February of 1974 Burgess was appointed Chief Engineer of the PHS and promoted to the position of Assistant Surgeon General with the equivalent rank of Rear Admiral (RADM) in the PHS Commissioned Corps. He held that post through his retirement from the Corps in 1985. As Chief Engineer, he was active in recruiting and initiated the name change of the “Sanitary Engineer” category to the “Engineer” category to help attract more facilities and biomedical engineers into the Corps.

His PHS awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Commendation Medal and the PHS Citation. These awards were conferred upon him as an individual who has demonstrated exemplary professional conduct and commitment to national service.

RADM Burgess served on the Board of the PHS Commissioned Officers Association for a number of years and as its President in 1975-1976. He retired from the Commissioned Corps on June 30, 1985. He passed away on February 13, 1996.


Page Last Modified on 12/14/2015

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