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More nurses will not only sit at the table; they will also be gripping the national policy podium in 2021. As President Biden’s Acting Surgeon General, Nurse of the Week Rear Admiral (RADM) Susan Orsega, MSN, FNP-BC, FAANP, FAAN is going to be one of the key US health officials—and Orsega is ready for duty. She’s spent much of her career handling health emergencies and disasters ranging from AIDS to 9/11 to the 2015 Ebola outbreak. The Rear Admiral and infectious disease specialist has been Director of Commissioned Corps Headquarters (CCHQ) at the Office of the Surgeon General (OSG) since 2019.

RADM Orsega’s areas of expertise seem almost to be designed for the tumults of the Covid era. After receiving a BSN at Towson University, she began her career at the US Public Health Service (USPHS) in 1989, while the world was coming to grips with the AIDS pandemic. Orsega plunged into HIV/AIDS nursing practice, international operations, health diplomacy, epidemics, and disaster response, while fitting in an MSN in 2001 at the Uniformed Services University (USU) Graduate School of Nursing Nurse Practitioner program. She has been deployed on 15 national and international disaster/humanitarian deployments, including the elite USPHS medical team after 9/11.

In 2016, when she was named Chief Nurse of the US Public Health Service, Orsega addressed nursing students at her alma mater. According to the Towson news post, she told students to “think about how their passions, interests and strengths and their work experiences intersect to find their career focus, an area she called ‘the sweet spot.’ She also challenged them to think beyond direct patient care to what their vision is for their career, how they can grow into leaders on the local, state, national and international levels…”

Prior to joining the Surgeon General’s office, she worked at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). At the height of the devastating 2015 Ebola epidemic, Orsega was appointed to the NIH/NIAID Ebola trial operations team and helped lead the first human vaccine and treatment Ebola trials in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Orsega served as the Chief Nurse Officer of the USPHS from May 2016 to March 2019. As CNO, she advised the Office of the Surgeon General and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on everything from recruitment and assignment to retention and career development of nurse professionals and 4,500 Commissioned Corps and civilian nurses. Orsega has been a Fellow in the American Association of Nurse Practitioners since 2013, and in 2016, she was inducted into the American Academy of Nursing.

Previous nurse Surgeon Generals have included Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, PhD, RN (appointed in 2017), and Richard Henry Carmona (appointed 2002). The White House is expected to announce Orsega’s appointment next week.

Koren Thomas
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