Surgeon General Jerome Adams, a Trump appointee, resigned last week at Biden’s request, and Deputy Surgeon General Erica Schwartz, a career official, chose to retire after being passed over as acting surgeon general.
Frequently viewed as the nation’s spokesperson on public health matters, the surgeon general oversees the U.S. Public Health Service, more than 6,000 uniformed public health personnel who work in various parts of the federal government, but has limited ability to make policy. In her current role, Orsega oversees the corps’s personnel, operations and readiness.
Orsega did not immediately respond to request for comment. A spokesperson for the Health and Human Services Department declined to confirm that Orsega had been selected as acting surgeon general but said the department is expecting an announcement as soon as Tuesday.
Biden has nominated Vivek H. Murthy, a close adviser who served as surgeon general in the Obama administration, to return to his previous role as the nation’s top doctor. However, Murthy’s confirmation hearings have yet to be scheduled, said an aide with the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
“The committee is ready to go with an aggressive scheduling of hearings once we organize, with nominations being a top priority,” committee spokesperson Madeleine Russak said.
Orsega is not the first nurse to serve as surgeon general. Former president Donald Trump in 2017 tapped nurse Sylvia Trent-Adams to serve as acting surgeon general after abruptly firing Murthy. Richard Carmona, who served in the Bush administration, was a physician as well as a nurse.