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In TOS McCoy was a Lt Cmdr and Crusher was a full Cmdr. It seems that to be Chief Medical officer you need to be a reasonably high-ranking officer. The exception to this is The Doctor (EMH) in VOY, but I think we will ignore him, because he's a hologram and VOY was in a desperate situation. So, is it actually referenced or written anywhere that there is a minimum ranking the CMO needs to be (and if so, what is this ranking) or do we have to go by anecdotal evidence from the shows and make an educated guess based on that?

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    Doctor Phlox holds no rank whatsoever but is Chief Medical Officer. The position (as far as I'm aware) is designated by the captain without regard to rank
    – Valorum
    May 14, 2014 at 9:29
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    The Doctor from Voyager also had no rank, yet -like Data- he became a recognized life form [EMH or not] and when Paris was made Chief Medical Officer, at one point, I believe he may have been an Ensign. May 14, 2014 at 9:38
  • I had my suspicions that may have been the case @Richard, because for that sort of position it does seem that one's rank is somewhat irrelevant to one's skill as a doctor. May 14, 2014 at 10:23
  • @N.Soong -You should know by now that for most any Star Trek question, Richard has it covered (complete with source data) :-)
    – Morgan
    May 18, 2014 at 3:35
  • @Morgan - I'm blushing...
    – Valorum
    May 27, 2014 at 18:24

1 Answer 1

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Starfleet CMOs have held a range of ranks but typically at least Lieutenant or Lt Cmdr (e.g. as Head of Department) except where the medical department consists solely of the officer themself.

  • Katherine Pulaski - Commander
  • Doctor Carter - Commander
  • Christine Chapel - Commander
  • Doctor T'Ana - Commander
  • Leonard McCoy - Lieutenant Commander
  • Beverley Crusher - Lieutenant Commander
  • Julian Bashir - Lieutenant (Junior Grade)
  • Elizabeth Lense - Lieutenant (Junior Grade)

Additionally, various civilians have worked as Starship CMOs without holding any formal rank;

  • EMH - No rank
  • Phlox - No rank
  • Philip Boyce - No rank

The only semi-canon reference I've been able to find to CMO rank is from the "Star Fleet Officer Requirements" manual, written to coincide with the release of Star Trek III.

The implication is that assuming a role of dept head implies an increase in rank to Lt. Cmdr

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The issue of Bashir's elevated rank was addressed by Ronald D. Moore in an AOL interview.

Q. Why did Bashier come out of the Academy with the Lt (jg) rank?

RDM: This conforms to current military practice where certain specialities like Doctors are entered into the military with advanced rank. Bashir went to Medical School after the Academy, and the Lieutenant rank would let him keep pace with his Academy classmates.

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  • A correction: Bashir was originally a LtJG.
    – aramis
    May 16, 2014 at 15:53
  • @aramis - You are, of course correct. This lends greater weight to the thesis that you can only be a LtJG (as CMO) if your "department" consists of you alone. By the time Bashir gets a nurse, he's a full lieutenant
    – Valorum
    May 16, 2014 at 16:13

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