As with so many of the eight Staff Corps in the United States Navy, the passage of legislation creating the Medical Service Corps was less of an authorization of a new component of the Navy than it was the recognition of an ad hoc organization that had already made significant contributions in the delivery and management of health-care services to our country’s Sailors.
Although many of the duties that would be assumed by officers in the Medical Service Corps were handled by members of the Medical Corps during World War I, the introduction of advanced medical technologies between the two World Wars made obvious the need for a permanent group of officers trained to employ the latest medical equipment. And the rapid expansion of the number of enlisted Sailors during World War II also made it clear that highly trained professionals in the fields of business administration, personnel management, and facilities planning and operation were essential for an efficient system of health care.
As a temporary solution to these problems brought on by the exigencies of fighting a global war on two fronts, the Navy gave temporary appointments to over 1400 active-duty officers in the Hospital Corps; in addition, almost 850 more medical specialists from fields such as optometry, radiology, podiatry, and psychology were also appointed as officers in the Naval Reserve on a temporary basis. At the conclusion of the war, the Navy realized the need for a permanent corps of officers to augment and complement the service’s primary caregivers.
President Harry Truman signed the Army-Navy Medical Services Corps Act of 1947 on August, which divided the newly created Staff Corps into four specialty fields: Optometry, Pharmacy, Supply and Administration, and Medical Allied Sciences. A Women’s Specialist Section added in 1952 was restricted to female officers, but in 1965 was retitled the Medical Specialist Section so that male officers could serve in it as well. (This was the same year that males were allowed to be appointed as officers in the Nurse Corps.)
Today, the Medical Service Corps has more than 3,000 officers on active duty or serving in the Naval Reserves in three different categories: Health Care Administrators, Scientists, and Clinicians, with Administrators making up 42 percent of the total of active-duty and reserve officers.