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Surgeon General, U.S.

The U.S. Surgeon General serves as “the nation's doctor,” the chief—and most visible—spokesperson and public advocate on issues of public health and preventive health in the country, appearing regularly in news reports on controversial public health topics. This person is appointed by the U.S. president to a four-year term and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

The post of U.S. Surgeon General may be well-known to many Americans today—thanks in part to the 1964 surgeon general's report on smoking and health—but the history and role of the surgeon general can be traced back to 1798 when Congress, believing the nation's economic interests were tied to the health and medical conditions of seamen working on commercial ships, established what would become known as the U.S. Marine Hospital Service.

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