Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Engineer Professional Advisory Committee


Assistant Surgeon General
Rear Admiral, USPHS (ret.)

James H. Eagen was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania in1936. His 36 years of service as a commissioned officer included a variety of assignments as an environmental engineer and culminated in his position as the Director of Personnel Management in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). His career serves as a model of outstanding contribution to the health of the nation through the profession of engineering and in the application of leadership to the critical areas of recruitment, service, and retention of health professionals serving in the Federal government.

James Eagen received his Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering degree at Pennsylvania State University in 1958 and a Master of Science in Civil Engineering in 1960 from that same institution. On June 27, 1959 he married Veronica Christine Strager of McKeesport, Pennsylvania at Seton Hill College in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. He is a registered professional engineer in the State of Colorado.

Eagen began his career as a Public Health Service officer in December of 1959, as a staff engineer at the PHS Regional office in Denver, Colorado. He was promoted to engineering consultant at that office in 1961 and remained in that post until 1964 when he was reassigned as a staff engineer to the Interstate Carrier Branch in Washington, DC. In 1966 he was posted to the National Center for Urban and Industrial Health as Chief of the Water Supply Basic Data Branch.

In August of 1967 Eagan’s career took a professional turn as he assumed the role of Placement Officer in the Office of Personnel, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. After six months in that post he became the acting Chief of Personnel Utilization and 3 months later, Deputy Chief of the Staffing Services Branch for Commissioned Officer Personnel. He served in that position until October of 1969 when he began a seven-year assignment in occupational health in the Bureau of Occupational Safety and Health, which later became the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Eagen’s assignment to the Occupational Safety and Health program of the Public Health Service coincided with a significant expansion of that area of public health from a relatively small research and technical assistance organization with only a general statutory authorization, to the congressionally mandated NIOSH. In his seven-year stint in this key area of public health he served as Assistant Director of the Occupational Safety and Health Program as the principal planning officer, then as Assistant Director of the new Institute and subsequently as Executive Officer of the Institute, the third line manager of the entire organization. At NIOSH, he had a primary role in implementing new occupational health legislation and provided outstanding administrative leadership as NIOSH grew rapidly.

Because of his strong administrative skills, in 1976, James Eagen was asked to join the HHS Office of Personnel Management, an organization that he had previously served in, but this time it was to be as Deputy Director. He was urged to assume this responsibility in view of concerns over the status of the PHS Commissioned Corps. While in this position, Eagen worked to pass new personnel management legislation, and he successfully used his engineering skills to automate personnel transactions to increase productivity.

In October of 1977 in recognition of his leadership responsibilities and professional competence, James H. Eagen was promoted to the position of Assistant Surgeon General with the equivalent rank of Rear Admiral (RADM) in the PHS Commissioned Corps. In 1989 RADM Eagen was promoted to the Director of the Office of Personnel Management in HHS, a post he held until July 1, 1995, when he retired from the Corps with 36 years of service.

RADM Eagen is a recipient of numerous award and honors, including the PHS Distinguished Service Medal, two PHS Meritorious Service Medals, the Surgeon General’s Medallion, and the Foreign Duty Award. In 1993 he was recognized as an Outstanding Engineering Alumnus by Pennsylvania State University.

RADM Eagen served as a member of a variety of professional engineering organizations and has been particularly active in the PHS Commissioned Officers Association. There he served as President of the Rocky Mountain Branch, President of the D.C. Metro Branch and a member of the Board of Directors twice, for a total of eight years. He has been a member of numerous national professional panels and committees and as a special consultant to the World Health Organization.

Since his retirement from the PHS, James Eagen has continued to serve as a resource for the work of the Commissioned Corps and the Commissioned Officers Association. He and his family live in Poolesville, Maryland.

5 Feb 2008

Page Last Modified on 12/14/2015

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