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Indian Health Service The Federal Health Program for American Indians and Alaska Natives

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Past Director - Carruth Wagner

Carruth Wagner

Assistant Surgeon General

Director Indian Health Service 1962-1965

Click here for a copy of the January 29, 2003 Memorial Service [PDF-129KB]
Remarks by IHS California Area Director, Margo Kerrigan, and her personal remembrances.

Dr. C.J. Wagner, an Orthopedic Surgeon, became the second Director of the Indian Health Service in 1962.  “Wag” came to the Indian Health Service directorship from the Office of Health Mobilization.

Dr. Wagner had a major impact on the total Indian Health Service program management during his tenure. He emphasized and implemented administration management, training of health care managers and other planning, budgeting and evaluation processes of the health care delivery system. Dr. Wagner was responsible for many changes and improvements in the management, operation, and delivery of a comprehensive health care system for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Dr. Wagner left the Indian Health Service in 1965 and became the Director of the Bureau of Medical Services. He continued to have an impact upon the Indian Health Service program, since it was a program under his authority as Director of the Bureau of Medical Services. Dr. Wagner was responsible for the Indian Health Service's involvement with a number of Peace Corps training projects, as well as a number of Administration for International Development projects; such as Peace Corp Korea and the Liberian aid project for the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia.

Dr. Wagner retired from the Public Health Service in 1968 with 30 years of service. He currently resides in Sacramento, California where he is associated with the California State Health Department.

The biography (above) has not been altered from the time it was last issued by the Indian Health Service.

Obituary of Carruth John Wagner, M.D., published in the Sacramento [California] Bee on 12/15/2002.

Born September 4, 1916 in Omaha, Nebraska. Son of Mabel May (Knapp) Wagner and Emil C. Wagner. Educated at University of Omaha, A.B. 1938; University of Nebraska College of Medicine, B.S. 1938, M.D. 1941, D. Sc. 1966. The medical career of Dr. Wagner took him from coast to coast, continent to continent and even to the White House. He served his country under four U.S. Presidents acting as: Assistant Surgeon General (Public Health Service); Director, Bureau of Health Services (PHS); Chief, Bureau of Medical Services (PHS); Chief, Division of Indian Health Services (PHS); and Chief, Division of Health Mobilization (PHS). Dr. Wagner also attained the grade of Rear Admiral in the United Stated Navy. He was a Diplomat, Fellow and Member of too many organizations to mention. Among many honors he received the Special Pfizer Award of Merit Citation and the Meritorious Service Award of the American Academy. He retired in 2001 at age 84 as Chief, Medical Policy Evaluation Branch, Department of Health Services, State of California. Dr. Wagner passed away at his residence November 25, 2002. While he funded as many as 18 scholarships a year for medical and nursing students the man, who touched all he met, selflessly credited all others for his successes. A memorial gathering will be held Wednesday, January 29, 2003 at 2:00 p.m. at EAST LAWN MORTUARY, 5757 Greenback Lane, Sacramento. Contributions may be made to the Carruth J. Wagner, M.D. Foundation 6234 Silverton Way Carmichael, CA 95608.

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