As a military combat veteran, I had a strong desire to pursue a career where I could continue serving the greater good. The Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service (USPHS) has provided me an incredible opportunity to do so as a pharmacist. The Commissioned Corps is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States and consists entirely of commissioned officers with a variety of health professional and scientific backgrounds. USPHS officers are assigned to agencies throughout the Department of Health and Human Services, and several other federal agencies such as the Bureau of Prisons (BOP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and US Coast Guard. The top three agencies USPHS pharmacy officers are assigned to are the Indian Health Service, BOP, and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
I commissioned in early 2015, and my first and current assignment is with the FDA in Silver Spring, MD. I work in the Division of Pharmacovigilance, where I am responsible for identifying and evaluating new drug safety signals for psychotropic drugs in the postmarketing setting. It is extremely fulfilling work where I apply my clinical knowledge in a unique way, and produce work that results in mitigating serious drug safety issues and enables patients to make better informed decisions regarding the medications they take.
In addition to my FDA-specific work, I have responsibilities to the Commissioned Corps to maintain readiness to deploy at all times in response to emergent public health disasters, or to national security special events, such as when I deployed to provide medical logistics support to the United Nations General Assembly in 2016. I also engage in professional activities that exemplify the core values of our service – Leadership, Service, Integrity, and Excellence – such as precepting pharmacy students, or volunteering at a military pharmacy to assist with staff shortages and maintain my pharmacy practice competencies.
What I love the most about being a USPHS officer is that I am part of a network of dedicated and talented officers who are passionate about public health and serving their country, and who are eager to support each other in meeting our mission of protecting, promoting, and advancing the health and safety of our Nation. I have met USPHS pharmacy officers that deployed to the Middle East to rebuild the drug supply infrastructure of war-torn countries, to Liberia to help treat local healthcare providers infected with Ebola, and more recently, to Puerto Rico to ensure people have continued access to life-saving medications in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. It is truly an honor and a privilege to be part of such a strong, compassionate, and devoted team of pharmacists.
As stated in the USPHS March, “In the silent war against disease no truce is ever seen.” The United States has many public health challenges that pharmacists can play key roles in tackling, such as providing clinical pharmacy services to underserved patient populations, ensuring the integrity of the Nation’s drug supply, and evaluating postmarketing drug safety data. I encourage pharmacy students and recent graduates to consider a career in public health, as there is plenty of exciting and impactful work for us to do!
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the US Food and Drug Administration, the US Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, or the Department of Health and Human Services.