Rear Admiral Susan Orsega
Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary for Health and the U.S. Surgeon General
Rear Admiral (RADM) Susan Orsega is the Senior Advisor to Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH) and Surgeon General (SG). She is the principal advisor to the ASH and SG on a full range of Office of the Assistant Secretary (OASH)/Office of Surgeon General (OSG) and U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps programs, policies and activities with a heavy focus on USPHS Commissioned Corps modernization and increased response to public health crises. She serves as the lead for the USPHS Commissioned Corps Legislative program and is responsible for establishing the first ever legislative liaison program. She advances interagency, equivalent military and public health partnerships to achieve the USPHS Commissioned Corps’ mission.
RADM Orsega has held numerous leadership positions at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Prior to this assignment, she served as the Director of Commissioned Corps Headquarters (CCHQ) (March 2019 to October 2021), where she was responsible for directing all functions regarding personnel, administration, operations, readiness, deployment, and policy for the 6,000 officers of the USPHS Commissioned Corps, Active and Ready Reserve components. In that role, she managed the activation of the largest deployment of the USPHS Commissioned Corps in support of international and national COVID-19 efforts. She was instrumental in the historic development of the Ready Reserve Corps. RADM Orsega served as Acting Surgeon General from January 26, 2021 to March 25, 2021 pending the Senate confirmation of Dr. Vivek H. Murthy as the 21st Surgeon General (SG). She served as the USPHS Commissioned Corps Chief Nurse Officer from May 2016 to October 2019, advising the SG on the recruitment, deployment, and career development for nursing and providing leadership to 4,500 USPHS Commissioned Corps nurses and HHS nurse civilians.
RADM Orsega’s career spans over 33 years in the USPHS Commissioned Corps. Commissioned in 1989, she was assigned to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was unfolding. She continued to advance her nursing and scientific knowledge in her NIH assignments with an emphasis on practice, leadership and operations. From 2001 to 2019, she was assigned to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)/NIH. From 2007 to 2019, she was responsible for the operational management of two NIAID projects with South African and Malian Governments; involving international health care professionals that provided research to over research participants in both countries who would otherwise not receive treatment. During 2012 to 2019, she focused on catalyzing partnerships, building infrastructure, and leading operations in Mali during periods of fluctuating security conflict, Malian government transition, Ebola and other emerging infectious disease outbreaks. In 2015, RADM Orsega was appointed to NIH/NIAID Ebola trial operations team. Their fervent on the ground leadership ensured that the first human vaccine and treatment Ebola trials in Liberia and Sierra Leone were successfully implemented at a time when Ebola transmission rates were high.
She has a distinguished public health emergency experience ranging from selection to an elite USPHS Commissioned Corps medical team after 9/11 as well as 17 other national and international disaster/humanitarian deployments serving in progressive nursing and leadership assignments since 1995. She brought that experience to the USS Pacific Peleliu ship mission as the only Public Health Service officer, Advance Planning team.
Currently, as a 2 star admiral and the Public Health Service career officer with the most years of service, RADM Orsega is well-known as a subject matter expert in disaster response, strategic leadership, HIV/AIDS practice, global health diplomacy and international operations. RADM Orsega co-authored 32 articles in peer-reviewed journals and presented at 50 major scientific and nursing conferences around the world.
She is the recipient of the American Nursing Credentialing Center’s Princess Muna Al Hussein Award in 2019, HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service in 2016, Uniformed Services University (USU) Graduate of School of Nursing Alumni of the Year award in 2015 and NIH Director’s award in 2002.
RADM Orsega earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Towson University and a Master’s degree of Science from the USU Graduate School of Nursing Nurse Practitioner program. She is a fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners and American Academy of Nursing.