NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Dog Days of Summer

PHS Mascot Visits NIH

Black dog sits against yellow and blue flag
Lt. Cmdr. Abigail, the official PHS mascot

In July, a delegation from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—NIH’s parent agency—visited NIH to tour and spend time with young patients and their families staying at the Children’s Inn at NIH. 

U.S. Deputy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Denise Hinton and Commissioned Corps Headquarters Director Rear Adm. Richard Schobitz brought along a special guest: Lieutenant commander Abigail, the first-ever official Public Health Service (PHS) mascot. Abigail, who made her debut at this event, is a two-year-old Labrador Retriever who will provide therapeutic care to patients and PHS officers.

Uniformed PHS officers and black dog greet young patients
U.S. Deputy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Denise Hinton (l), Rear Adm. Richard Schobitz and Abigail greet patients at the inn.

Lt. Cmdr. Abigail was trained by the Warrior Canine Connection (WCC), in connection with the Commissioned Officer Association and Commissioned Officer Foundation. WCC’s therapeutic service dog training program is designed to mitigate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other challenges sustained by returning combat veterans and help them reintegrate back into their families and communities.

The commissioned pup was named after former first lady of the U.S. Abigail Adams, who has a historical connection to the service. The origin and history of the Commissioned Corps trace back to July 16, 1798, when Congress passed an Act, signed by President John Adams, creating the U.S. Marine Hospital Service to protect against the spread of disease from sailors returning from overseas ports. Thus began the story of the Public Health Service.

The concept of the service mascot originated during the Covid-19 pandemic, when PHS officers deployed to respond to the largest public health emergency in modern times. The mascot is intended to improve mental well-being, enhance camaraderie and assist with public health messaging. Lt. Cmdr. Abigail is a living symbol, representing the Commissioned Corps’ commitment to protecting the nation’s health.

Image
Abigail, the Public Health Services delegation, and NIH representatives and patients stand against the "HOPE" playground letters at the Children's Inn
Lt. Cmdr. Abigail joins the PHS delegation, patients and their families, and Children’s Inn CEO Jennie Lucca (second from r).

Photo:  Children's Inn at NIH

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