Health Care Luncheon Speaker, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, Discusses the Importance of Caring

By Shaw, Kate | Corrections Today, May-June 2014 | Go to article overview

Health Care Luncheon Speaker, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, Discusses the Importance of Caring


Shaw, Kate, Corrections Today


Photos by International Center for Documentary Arts

At the Health Care Luncheon on Saturday afternoon, Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris D. Lushniak, M.D., M.P.H., began his address by thanking those in the armed forces, and those in public service. "All of us have a common bond, which is service to our nation," he said. He then noted that during the luncheon's opening prayer, what really struck him was the message of caring that was conveyed. "From the Office of the Surgeon General of the United States ... I say to you, 'thank you for caring," he said. Lushniak outlined the two main aspects of his position: to serve as the leader of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and to serve as a representative for the nation's doctors. He also emphasized how caring for all patients, regardless of his or her criminal history, was an essential part of serving in this position.

Giving a brief history of the Commissioned Corps and the Office of the Surgeon General, Lushniak noted that the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) was created in 1930. As part of its creation, the Commissioned Corps was ordered to assume control of providing health care for the BOP. Since its creation, the BOP has expanded from seven penitentiaries in 1930 to 119 institutions, six regional offices, a central office, two staff training centers and 22 community corrections centers in 2014. The BOP system has evolved heavily, Lusniak said, to include mental health services and substance abuse services--helping those who are "underserved and vulnerable."

Lushniak reiterated the mission of the Commissioned Corps, which is to "protect, promote and advance the health and safety of our nation," and applied it to the work performed every day by correctional health professionals. He emphasized the importance of the partnership between the public health service and correctional systems. "The people who enter those correctional institutions are, in fact, the people [whom] we, wearing this uniform, serve," he said. Though these individuals have made mistakes in life, Lushniak said, by caring for them, they can reenter society as healthy individuals.

As part of this mission of caring, Lushniak highlighted the problems that correctional health care professionals face today, such as lack of funding and lack of patient enrollment in health insurance programs. Efforts such as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and its Medicaid expansion provision are steps in the right direction, according to Lushniak. …

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