This morning Joe Biden announced that he's offered the position of Chief Medical Advisor to Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the cabinet position Surgeon General to Dr. Vivek Murthy, who served in the same position in the Obama administration.

Which got me thinking: What's the difference between these two positions? Aren't all the Cabinet members the President's chief advisor on the matters pertaining to their departments?

And during the coronavirus pandemic, why haven't we heard from the Surgeon General very much at all? It seems like he would have been a natural candidate to lead the COVID-19 Task Force, rather than the Vice President. And the medical experts we usually heard from were Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx.

1 Answer 1


Difference between Chief Medical Advisor and Surgeon General

One is an advisor in the Executive Office of the President. The other is an officer with responsibility to oversee the Public Health Service.

The Chief Medical Advisor to the President is a position created by President Trump. The first Chief Medical Advisor was Dr. Ronny Jackson who held the post from February 2, 2019 to December 1, 2019.

The U.S. Surgeon General is the Nation’s Doctor, providing Americans with the best scientific information available on how to improve their health and reduce the risk of illness and injury. The Surgeon General oversees the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps, an elite group of over 6,000 uniformed officers who are public health professionals. The USPHS mission is to protect, promote, and advance the health of our nation. HHS.gov

Aren't all the Cabinet members the President's chief advisor[s] on the matters pertaining to their departments?

Surgeon General (SG) is not a cabinet position, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the SG's boss) is.

  • "one is an advisor, the other is an officer" -- why do we need both? Why can't the officer advise?
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 22:54
  • @Barmar The officer can advise, but they have other responsibilities as well. Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 23:02
  • I get the feeling that Trump created the position for Jackson, as a consolation for not getting the VA Secretary job.
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 23:08
  • @Barmar - Perhaps; but Biden has decided that he too needs a Chief Medical Advisor.
    – Rick Smith
    Commented Dec 4, 2020 at 23:11

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