How to Address the Surgeon General

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How to Address the Surgeon General

The Surgeon General is appointed by The President of The United States and approved by the Senate. This entitles the office holder to be addressed as:
——–The Honorable (Full Name)

Additionally, the surgeion serves in the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and is granted the rank of Vice Admiral as commander of the officers of the U.S. Public Health Service:
—-—-Vice Admiral, (Full Name)
—-—-—-or
—-—-VADM (Full Name)

Both forms of address are correct. But it’s either/or. They are never combined.

—-Envelope or address block on a letter or email:
—-—-The Honorable
—-—-(Full name)
—-—-Surgeon General
—-—-United States Public Health Service
—-—-(Address)
—-—-—-or
—-—-VADM (Full name)
—-—-Surgeon General
—-—-United States Public Health Service
—-—-(Address)

—-Salutation:
—-—-Dear Dr. (Surname):
—-—-—-or
—-—-Dear Admiral (Surname):

— Robert Hickey  How to Address the Public Health Service

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

How to Address The Leadership of the Public Health Service

The leadership of the U.S. Public Health Service serves in the commissioned corps of the U.S. Public Health Service and hold the naval ranks.  In the sample below I’ve used the standard abbreviation for rear admiral: RADM. Note that the conversational form for all of the graded ranks of admiral is simply Admiral (Surname)

Assistant Secretary for Health
—–Envelope, official:
—–—–ADM (Full name)
—–—–Assistant Secretary for Heath
—–—–(Address)
—–Letter salutation:  Dear Admiral (surname):
—–Conversation:  Admiral (surname)

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health
—–Envelope, official:
—–—–RADM (Full name)
—–—–Assistant Secretary for Heath
—–—–(Address)
—–Letter salutation:  Dear Admiral (surname):
—–Conversation:  Admiral (surname)

Surgeon General
—–Envelope, official:
—–—–VADM (Full name)
—–—–Assistant Secretary for Heath
—–—–(Address)
—–Letter salutation:  Dear Admiral (surname):
—–Conversation:  Admiral (surname)

Deputy Surgeon General
—–Envelope, official:
—–—–RADM (Full name)
—–—–Assistant Secretary for Heath
—–—–(Address)
—–Letter salutation:  Dear Admiral (surname):
—–Conversation:  Admiral (surname)

Director, Commissioned Officers Corps
—–Envelope, official:
—–—–RADM (Full name)
—–—–Assistant Secretary for Heath
—–—–(Address)
—–Letter salutation:  Dear Admiral (surname):
—–Conversation:  Admiral (surname)

– Robert Hickey

The Surgeon General is not the Honorable

I believe you should revise your advice on the title for correspondence for the Surgeon General of the United States Public Health Service.
The Surgeon General is a commissioned officer in the United States Public Health Service.  The title ‘the Honorable (Full Name)’ is not used in addressing uniformed service personnel. The correct form for an official envelope and salutation would be:
—-—-Surgeon General (Full name)
—-—-United States Public Health Service
——–(Address)
—-—-—-—-—-– William Collins,

Dear Mr. Collins:
The forms … VADM (Full Name) and the Honorable (Full Name) are the forms of address suggested by the office of the Surgeon General at the USPHS. That’s where I got them.  But I can understand how you might think that Surgeon General (Full Name) would be the correct form in written correspondence.

News commentators say, ‘Surgeon General (Name) announced today….‘    That’s not a form of address. It is a reporter identifying the official in the third person so the person listening or reading can know who said what.  People hear what is in media accounts and think those forms are used in direct written address. It is the same for an inspector general, solicitor general, or postmaster general – none of these offices are formally used before the name in written address.

– Robert Hickey

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"

When Should You Use the Forms on this Page?

You can use these forms of address for any mode of communication: addressing a letter, invitation, card or Email. (If there are differences between the official and social forms of address, I will have mentioned the different forms.)  The form noted in the salutation is the same form you say when you say their name in conversation or when you greet them.

Not Finding Your Answer?

—-#1)  At right on desktops, at the bottom of every page on tablets and phones, is a list of all the offices, officials & topics covered on the site.

—-#2)  If you don’t see the official you seek included or your question answered send me an e-mail. I am pretty fast at sending a reply: usually the next day or so (unless I am traveling.)  Note: I don’t have mailing or Email addresses for any of the officials and I don’t keep track of offices that exist only in history books.

—-#3)  If I think your question is of interest to others, Sometimes I post the question  – but always change all the specifics.

— Robert Hickey 

Robert Hickey author of "Honor & Respect"