Criteria for Awards

Awards must be based on actions and activities that have not been the basis for a prior Commissioned Corps award, except what has been previously honored may serve as part of the basis for a more senior subsequent award that is based on significantly more actions and accomplishments over a longer period of time. There are no criteria for the number of awards or percent of officers receiving awards. There are two main type of awards: Honor Awards and Service Awards.

Honor Awards

Individual Honor Awards

  • Distinguished Service Medal (DSM): The DSM is the highest award bestowed on an officer. It recognizes exceedingly high level of achievements, which may range from the management of a major health program to an initiative resulting in a major impact on the health of the nation. The award can also be awarded for a one-time heroic act resulting in great saving of life, health, or property.
  • Meritorious Service Medal (MSM): The MSM recognizes meritorious service on the basis of a single, particularly important achievement; a career notable for accomplishments in technical or professional fields; or unusually high quality and initiative in leadership. The level of performance meriting this award may include a highly significant achievement in research, program direction, or program administration; a series of significant contributions; a continuing period of meritorious service; or exhibition of great courage in hazardous work, or in an emergency.
  • Outstanding Service Medal (OSM): The OSM is presented to officers who have either demonstrated outstanding continuous leadership in carrying out the mission of the PHS or have performed a single accomplishment which has had a major effect on the health of the nation, or have performed a heroic act resulting in the preservation of health or property.
  • Commendation Medal (CM): The CM is awarded to an officer who has demonstrated a level of proficiency and dedication distinctly greater than that expected of an average commissioned officer. The CM recognizes sustained high quality work performance in scientific, administrative, or other professional fields; application of unique skill or creative imagination to the approach or solution of problems; or noteworthy technical and professional contributions that are significant to a limited area.
  • Achievement Medal (AM): The AM recognizes noteworthy contributions towards the attainment of program objectives, or sustained above-average performance over a relatively short period of time, such as a short tour of duty (120 days or less).
  • PHS Citation (PHS CIT): The PHS CIT recognizes special contributions towards the attainment of program objectives, sustained above average performance of duty, or high quality performance of duty over a relative short period of time.

Unit Awards

  • Outstanding Unit Citation (OUC): The OUC is awarded to commissioned officers who constitute a group which exhibited exceptional service of national or international significance. The award is usually given for specific actions over a relatively short period of time, marked by discrete beginning and ending dates.
  • Unit Commendation (UC): The UC is presented to acknowledge outstanding accomplishment by a designated organizational unit within PHS. The award is made to commissioned officers who have demonstrated a significant level of performance well above that normally expected, but at a somewhat lesser level than is required for the OUC.

Service Awards

Service awards may be initiated by the officer or supervisor at any time after the criteria for the award have been met. There are five service awards and one campaign award.

  • Foreign Duty Award (FDA): For service outside the US for 30 consecutive or 90 non-consecutive days in a foreign duty post (not in training status).
  • Hazardous Duty Award (HDA): For service of over 180 days in a position requiring frequent risk to officer's safety. Assignments where the officer's professional knowledge should significantly reduce or abolish the risk do not qualify for the HDA. See CCPM27.1, Instruction 2, for the designated sites.
  • Isolated Hardship Award (ISOHAR): For service of over 180 days at a site designated as osilated, remote, insular, or constituting a hardship. There are designated sites for the ISOHAR; see CCPM27.1, Instruction 2.
  • National Emergency Preparedness Award (NEPA): For two continuous years of service in an organized unit that is mandated to provide emergency medical/support services and meet required activities, training, and certification.
  • Special Assignment Award (SAA): For service of a minimum of 30 consecutive days in a detail to a specific program initiative of other Federal or State Agency.
  • Smallpox Eradication Campaign Ribbon (SPEC): For 90 days service between January 1, 1966, and October 26, 1977, in the smallpox campaign.
  • Crisis Response Service Award (CRSA): For service in PHS intervention activity in a crisis situation. Service must be direct/on-site, participation of a non-routine nature.

Contact Us

NIH Commissioned Corps Liaison
31 Center Drive, Room B2B63
Bethesda, MD 20892
(O) 301-402-9239
(F) 301-480-1225