As a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, TeCora Ballom, DO, has dedicated her career to supporting medically underserved individuals. Her assignments with the service have included years of leadership in the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which oversees inmate health care, and emergency assistance to a struggling hospital on an island in the South Pacific.
These assignments and her passion for providing care to those in need have prepared her to take on a new leadership role as assistant surgeon general.
The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is one of the nation’s seven uniformed services; it employs more than 6,700 commissioned public health officers who are led by Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD. Officers like Dr. Ballom who are promoted to the rank of rear admiral are also appointed assistant surgeon general.
“The U.S. Public Health Service has entrusted me with challenging and diverse leadership experiences,” she says. “As assistant surgeon general, I will likely be called upon to play a leadership role in high-visibility projects.”
There are roughly 40 assistant surgeon generals, Dr. Ballom says. Each holds a leadership assignment for a federal agency, but may be called upon to support the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps’ special projects as needed.
In the past, assistant surgeon generals have been summoned to lead health care efforts following Hurricane Katrina; to serve as an advisor to the mayor of Flint, Michigan, during its lead crisis; and to oversee a field hospital in Africa during the Ebola outbreak, according to Dr. Ballom. Public Health Service officers also provide medical support at major national events, including Inauguration Day.
As assistant surgeon general, Dr. Ballom also will continue to serve in her current assignment: She oversees the health care needs of more than 30,000 inmates as regional medical director for the South Central Regional Office of the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Grand Prairie, Texas.
“My passion for practicing medicine is to address the needs of medically underserved populations and to lessen health disparities, goals I hope to achieve on a national level as assistant surgeon general,” Dr. Ballom says.
Interested in working on the front lines during public health emergencies and serving with government agencies such as the Indian Health Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? Learn more about joining the U.S. Public Health Service.