Susan Orsega ’90 named chief nurse of U.S. Public Health Service, visits with TU students

By Megan Bradshaw on November 1, 2016

“[I am] the nurse I am today because of the opportunities, experiences, collaborations and foundation established through my career...”

Susan Orsega speaking to the Nursing Leadership and Management class on Nov. 1.
Susan Orsega speaking to the Nursing Leadership and Management class on Nov. 1.

Towson University nursing alumna Susan Orsega ’90 was promoted to rear admiral upon her appointment as the chief nurse of the United States Public Health Service (USPHS). 

She will lead the Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service (Corps) Nurse Professional Affairs and advise the Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Health and Human Services on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention and career development of 1,500 corps nurse professionals. Orsega will also represent the PHS nursing in discussions with nursing organizations at a global and national level.

“[I am] the nurse I am today because of the opportunities, experiences, collaborations and foundation established through my career. The stepping stones to my career and [the] foundation gained from Towson [University] has set me up for success as I have grown professionally [the last] 26 years.”

Orsega visited with TU nursing students on Tuesday, Nov. 1 to speak during Nursing Leadership and Management in the College of Health Professions.

During her talk with the students, she urged them to think about how their passions, interests and strengths and their work experiences intersect to find their career focus, an area she called “the sweet spot.” She also challenged them to think beyond direct patient care to what their vision is for their career, how they can grow into leaders on the local, state, national and international levels. 

Between her junior and senior years at what was then Towson State, she joined the USPHS as a junior commissioned officer, student externship program and returned as a senior stepping up to commissioned officer. In both instances, she was placed at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where she worked with HIV patients both inpatient and at a clinic. During her 26-year career, Orsega has been deployed to 15 disaster areas, including Ground Zero after September 11, and Liberia at the height the latest Ebola crisis, where she led a team of nurses during the first human trial of a vaccine.

“The skills and theories I learned at Towson [University], I still use both in clinical practice and as a leader [today],” Orsega stressed.

While a student at what was then Towson State University, she received the nursing practice award and was an accomplished competitor for the Tiger cross country and indoor and outdoor track and field teams. She counts among her most memorable moments the community nursing practica in Baltimore, Maryland, which she says allowed her to gain a keener understanding of the breadth and depth of public health and its intersection with nursing.