Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy was replaced on Friday by his deputy, Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams. Serving on an interim basis, Admiral Trent-Adams becomes the second nurse to have served in this position, and the first non-physician to take the job.
Admiral Trent-Adams worked as a nurse officer in the Army, and served as a research nurse at the University of Maryland, where she received her PhD. In 1992, she joined the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service, where she served in the HIV/AIDS bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration before joining the surgeon general’s office.
Surgeons general have limited staff and direct influence, but they often use their position to call attention to important public health priorities. Dr. Murthy, Adm. Trent-Adams predecessor, used his platform to speak out against gun violence, labeling it as a threat to public health. It is unclear why Murthy was relieved of duty; the Department of Health and Human Services said that the Trump administration asked him to step down after “assisting in a smooth transition,” but Dr. Murthy’s wife, Alice Chen, said that her husband was fired after he refused to resign.