Alumnus Boris Lushniak, MD ’83, MPH, became “The Nation’s Doctor” this week, accepting the role of acting surgeon general on July 17 following the departure of Vice Admiral Regina Benjamin, MD, MBA.
In his new position, Rear Admiral Lushniak provides citizens with the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and the health of the nation. He also oversees the operations of the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps, the 6,700 uniformed health officers who serve in locations around the world to promote, protect, and advance the health and safety of our nation.
Lushniak was introduced to the USPHS in 1983 as a senior medical student, when he completed an elective with the Indian Health Service in Winslow, Arizona. He began his USPHS career in 1988 as a lieutenant, entering the service as part of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He was initially stationed with the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in Cincinnati, where he conducted epidemiological investigations of workplace hazards.
“Public health is a beautiful mission,” said Lushniak, who has served as deputy surgeon general since November 2010. “There is nobility to it because, ultimately, it isn’t about one person or one family, it is a bigger thing.”
In 1990 he was accepted for the CDC’s long-term training program and completed a three-year residency in dermatology at the University of Cincinnati, after which he established an occupational skin disease program at the NIOSH. During his time at the CDC, he also served on special assignments and disaster response activities in Bangladesh, St. Croix, Russia, and Kosovo, was part of the CDC/NIOSH team at Ground Zero following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and was a member of the team investigating the anthrax poisonings in Washington.
“The World Trade Center is where things changed for me personally,” Lushniak recalls. “Being deployed to that site in the midst of the tragedy and destruction allowed me to concentrate on the mission of rescue and recovery worker safety and health. I felt honored to be able to serve my nation in this time of need.”
In 2004 he transitioned from the CDC to the FDA as the chief medical officer of the Office of Counterterrorism and was appointed assistant commissioner in 2005. While at the FDA, he was deployed after Hurricane Katrina to serve as the Department of Health and Human Services representative in San Antonio and also served as the FDA deputy incident commander for the 2009 pandemic response. He was promoted to rear admiral, lower half in 2006 and attained the rank of rear admiral, upper half in 2010.
Lushniak was admitted to the six-year Honors Program in Medical Education at Northwestern and completed his bachelor of science degree in 1981, obtaining his medical degree in 1983.
“Feinberg is a place where the academic levels are very high, the expectations are high, and the challenges of learning about medicine, of taking care of patients are extreme,” he said while on campus in April for Alumni Weekend. “When I look around here, first and foremost, I am glad I had that opportunity.”
In 1984 he completed his masters of public health degree at Harvard University and joined the residency program in family medicine at St. Joseph Hospital in Chicago. He maintains board certification in dermatology and preventive medicine (occupational) and serves as a staff physician in dermatology at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda and is adjunct professor of dermatology at the Uniformed Service University of the Health Sciences.