When you join the Commissioned Corps, you become part of a dedicated team of professionals who work to improve the health of individuals, communities, and the Nation.
Meet some of the behavioral health officers in the Commissioned Corps below, or visit the Health Services Professional Advisory Committee Web site.
Commander Nicole Frazer
Senior Policy Analyst, Psychological Health Strategic Operations, Force Health Protection and Readiness Programs, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Health Affairs)
A Career Serving the Department of Defense
CDR Nicole Frazer spent the first 11 years of her uniformed career in the Air Force and made a distinguished career for herself. As an officer, she completed her Air Force career as a Major, completed a fellowship in clinical health psychology, served as an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and worked in the Office of the Surgeon General of the Air Force developing substance abuse and prevention programs. She also served as an Air Force liaison in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) / Department of Defense (DoD) MOA.
Her love of service to her country led CDR Frazer to join the USPHS Commissioned Corps after she separated from the Air Force, with the same O-4 rank and pay as in her previous career. Upon joining the Commissioned Corps, she first worked at the Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, an opportunity that appealed to her sense of helping large populations.
“It was a joint assignment, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Veteran Affairs, and the U.S. Public Health Service, working together to lead the Nation in resilience, recovery, and reintegration for service members and their families in all areas related to psychological health and traumatic brain injury,” Frazer said.
Currently, CDR Frazer works with the Department of Defense (DoD) examining DoD-wide policies and programs to build better psychological health and prevention programs. Before she entered her position, there was no DoD-wide policy for disaster mental health.
In addition to her day job, CDR Frazer uses her clinical health psychology skills and treats service members, their families and retirees at Malcolm Grow Medical Center at Joint Base Andrews, outside of Washington D.C.
A recent two-week temporary duty assignment also took CDR Frazer to New Mexico, where she and a team of U.S. Public Health Service Officers assisted the Indian Health Service (IHS)content to treat a rash of suicides among teens on the local Native American reservations.
“The U.S. Public Health Service offered me an opportunity to continue wearing a uniform, use my skills to promote health on a national level and appropriately prioritize family needs. It was perfect,” CDR Frazer said. “I have the privilege of serving my country and am able to continue to help warriors and their families. I remember wanting to learn about the Commissioned Corps and then reading the online bios on the website in early 2008 and now here I am!”
Lieutenant Commander Qiana Coffey
Nurse, PHS-DoD Partners in Mental Health
Helping soldiers with traumatic brain injuries
LT Coffey works as a nurse manager at Fort Campbell, KY, treating soldiers in the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) center. She says, “I’m learning how to help soldiers who have fought for a purpose and are now home fighting another fight—for their peace of mind and well-being of themselves and their families.” Soldiers who come to the TBI center are able to heal physically, mentally, and spiritually. Working in the Commissioned Corps, LT Coffey has the opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. “The Corps offers service, honor, and it’s really rewarding. I’m passionate about health promotion and prevention,” she says.
Commander David Thompson
Clinical Psychologist, PHS-DoD Partners in Mental Health
When problems snowball
LCDR David Thompson treats airmen, soldiers, and sailors before and after deployment at Eglin Air Force Base, FL, as a clinical psychologist with a specialty in substance abuse. LCDR Thompson says, “Sometimes things can snowball on returning warriors. They can have a little difficulty adjusting and that can bleed into work, family problems and then feel like the problems are piling on. It’s challenging for them and for us as providers.” Treating returning warriors can be complex, but LCDR Thompson has found his patients to be engaged, cooperative, and interested in treatment. His previous work in the Corps was in the Bureau of Prisons, where he was involved in treating Federal inmates who were getting ready to be released and helping them start their lives over. LCDR Thompson says, “Being a Corps officer means participating in its valuable public health mission. I’ve had lots of training in disaster mental health and crisis response and I get a lot of satisfaction from deploying with mental health teams.”
CAPT Robert DeMartino
M.D. Director, Behavioral Medicine Division, Office of the Chief Medical Officer, TRICARE
On July 1st, 2012, CAPT Robert DeMartino will step into the new role as Commissioned Corps Chief of Staff.
The Commissioned Corps Welcomes New Chief of Staff
On June 12th, 2012, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin announced that CAPT Robert DeMartino, MD, will officially step into the role of Commissioned Corps Chief of Staff. CAPT DeMartino is currently Director, Behavioral Medicine Division in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, Department of Defense (DoD). He is a physician trained in both internal medicine and psychiatry. In addition to his great enthusiasm and professional demeanor, he brings a skill set that will benefit the Commissioned Corps tremendously.
Helping populations from the forefront
Every officer’s path into the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) is unique. Some medical officers join immediately following their residency; some enter the Commissioned Corps with more experience. For CAPT DeMartino, the decision to accept a commission as a USPHS officer came well into his career – a move that proved to place him at the forefront of serving our nation’s most vulnerable populations.
Born in New York, CAPT. DeMartino graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before earning his M.D. from Tufts University in 1985. He trained for the following seven years before entering private practice in Boston as both an internist and psychiatrist. In Massachusetts, Dr. DeMartino served as the director of Forensic Psychiatry at Massachusetts State Hospital and then traveled to Croatia after the Bosnian War to provide mental health assistance for those displaced and traumatized during the civil war.
A conversation in 1998 with RADM Thomas Bornemann (Ret), who was then a USPHS officer, changed his career path. RADM Bornemann described an opportunity to join the USPHS Commissioned Corps and work with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) on developing national responses to the psychological consequences of terrorism. Dr. DeMartino jumped at the opportunity.
“The move from individual care to population care wasn’t an accident. I felt that the skills I had translated well to working with large populations,” CAPT DeMartino said.
He entered the Commissioned Corps as a Lieutenant Commander (LCDR, O-4) and was working at SAMHSA when the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 occurred. He was among the first group of USPHS officers deployed to Ground Zero, where he spent the next three weeks. While in New York, CAPT DeMartino was in charge of implementing a system that ensured mental health providers were stationed at locations in the city where federal workers were based. As part of the program, CAPT DeMartino was responsible for placing providers at the Jacob Javits Center, FEMA’s Joint Operations Center, federally operated morgues, and as mobile providers in and around Ground Zero.
In 2005, CAPT DeMartino was again among the first group of USPHS officers deployed following the devastating tsunami in Indonesia. As part of the response team aboard the USNS Mercy, CAPT DeMartino established mental health services for all response personnel, both military and civilian, aboard the ship as well as a specialty referral service for foreign nationals being treated by the Mercy’s medical and surgical teams. CAPT DeMartino visited mental health facilities that were damaged by the tsunami and assisted in outreach and training efforts to serve citizens of Banda Aceh – the Indonesian city most devastated by the tsunami.
That same year, he spent two months in Louisiana as the USPHS mental health team lead following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He served as a mental health consultant to the state of Louisiana as well as FEMA’s federal lead in vetting outside volunteer mental health providers that were willing to fill much-needed gaps in care to displaced residents.
“The U.S. Public Health Service’s draw was the opportunity to do something you love on a daily basis combined with the opportunity to help in times of crisis. In 1998, I could have entered my job as a civilian but the USPHS provided opportunities to deploy and do things above and beyond my day-to-day duties,” DeMartino said. “There are very few experiences in a civilian position to match the camaraderie of serving the nation as a member of a uniformed service.”
Currently, CAPT DeMartino oversees the behavioral health benefit for the 9.5 million beneficiaries of the DoD TRICARE health plan, providing direction for policy and setting quality, access and services standards. He is also the DoD chair for joint DoD/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) behavioral health activities and chairs the newly chartered DoD Addictive Substance Misuse Advisory.
Lieutenant Commander Kay Beaulieu
Clinical Psychologist, PHS-DoD Partners in Mental Health
Treated more than a thousand soldiers, and counting
As a clinical psychologist, LCDR Beaulieu treats warriors before and after deployment at the Army base at Fort Carson, CO. She worked there as a civilian before joining the Commissioned Corps, where she now has additional duties as an officer. “When I put on the Corps uniform, I connect with the soldiers more than I did when I was a civilian,” she explains. LCDR Beaulieu is the team leader on a mobile behavioral health team, bringing behavioral health to the brigade. LCDR Beaulieu and her team are located in a building in the midst of the soldiers’ barracks and administrative offices. Through individual treatment and post-deployment groups, she has treated more than 1,000 soldiers who have deployed. LCDR Beaulieu says, “These patients are dedicated to their country and I’ve found them to have an incredible strength and tenacity.”
Commander Mike Tilus
Clinical Psychologist, Indian Health Service
From Army chaplain to Commissioned Corps officer
CDR Tilus spent 12 years as an Army chaplain and served in the Gulf War. He wanted to stay in uniform and spend his professional career providing care to underserved communities, so he became a Corps officer in 2002. A psychologist in the Indian Health Service in South Dakota, CDR Tilus treats six patients per day, providing counseling where there is an overwhelming need. He says, “Clinicians in the trenches really count success one life at a time. I hope and pray that the resources I bring make a difference.” CDR Tilus has been deployed several times for disaster relief and finds it a tremendous opportunity to treat those who need it urgently. “I provide help to people in crisis and get them to the next level of care,” he says. Two of his three assignments in the Indian Health Service have been in remote sites, dealing with long-term chronic need with limited resources. An ordained minister, CDR Tilus says, “American Indians welcome spiritual people, and their culture includes spirituality in the healing process. “
Commander Danisha Robbins
Clinical Psychologist, Health Resources and Services Administration
Transitioned from the military
CDR Robbins returned from Iraq having fulfilled her 7-year commitment to the Navy, where she provided behavioral health services to U.S. Marines. “I loved the military, but as my children reached school age, I did not want to have to move every 2 years,” she says. CDR Robbins joined another branch of the uniformed services, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, as chief of psychology services at the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami, FL, currently the largest immigration detention center on the east coast. CDR Robbins sees patients from all over the world, providing mental health evaluations, psychotherapy, and hospitalizations to detainees. “This job is very different from one I may have had as a civilian. The acute condition of some requires intensive treatment, but I love what I do and I wouldn't have it any other way,” she says.
Commander Wanda Finch
Clinical Social Worker, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Empowering people and communities
CDR Finch loves being a social worker and her enthusiasm is infectious. “I empower people, give them skills, and teach them how to take care of themselves for a lifetime. I will handhold if I have to. Social workers are probably the most flexible people in the world. We get along with everybody and look out for the greater good,” she says. CDR Finch works at the SAMHSA Center for Mental Health Services, where she ensures that adults with behavioral health issues can get the care that they need. “We bridge gaps that exist for communities of color and for individuals who otherwise would not be served,” she explains. As an officer in the Commissioned Corps, she is proud to wear the uniform and work with like-minded officers who love what they do, too. “People respect the uniform and want to know what I do. I get to educate people about the important work of the Corps. I love knowing I can help people anywhere I wouldn't trade my job for anything in the world,” she says.
Captain Deborah Price
Psychiatric Nurse Practitoner, Indian Health Service
A Corps career in the Indian Health Service
CDR Price started her career in the Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (COSTEP) in 1987 in Fort Defiance, a Navajo community in New Mexico. “I knew from the time the plane landed that this was it for me and I've never looked back,” she says. Her career in the Commissioned Corps has allowed her to focus on public health, work in American Indian communities, treat American Indians in urban areas, and participate in emergency deployments. “American Indian communities are a unique population that historically has been underserved. Even in the urban areas, many members choose to get treatment at the Indian Health Service because it's a cultural center as well as a health facility. We had the Indian market here yesterday and a powwow recently,” she says. For the first nine years of CDR Price's career she was a family nurse, and then she went back to school to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner. “Being a psychiatric nurse practitioner is the best of both worlds, nursing and mental health. The great thing about being a Commissioned Corps officer is that we are able to provide care to clients who otherwise would not have received services. It's a privilege to work with American Indians,” she says.
Lieutenant Commander Jamie Seligman
Clinical Social Worker, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
A new family tradition
Many officers in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps speak about the brotherhood of the Corps, but for LCDR Seligman it really is. “I saw my older brother become an officer in the Corps. I was in the Junior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (JRCOSTEP) in 2000 and became a commissioned officer in 2001. My brother was my recruiter and he's a great mentor. It's brought us a lot closer,” says LCDR Seligman. He was the first social worker at the El Paso Detention Center in El Paso, TX, where he treated hundreds of patients. Detainees often have to wait 6 to 12 months for processing and not knowing when they're being released is very stressful. Most of his patients were not criminals and not used to being in that kind of facility. LCDR Seligman loves his job and makes a difference in people's lives. “There's a real camaraderie among the uniformed services. As an officer, I'm able to change my job track and focus on social work even when I'm not providing clinical care. There's no better career than the Corps,” he says.
Captain Stacey A. Williams
Clinical Psychologist, Department of Defense
Caring for families
As the first U.S. Public Health Service pediatric health psychologist in the Department of Pediatrics at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC, CDR Williams provides psychotherapy, behavior management, and neuropsychological assessments to more than 600 children of service men and women each year. But her work doesn't stop with her young patients. "The whole family system is impacted," says CDR Williams about her work at Walter Reed. "The Corps stands between American citizens and natural and cultural disaster. The Corps is a vital component to our survival." In just over 3 years, CDR Williams has already been deployed to Maryland, West Virginia, South Dakota, Florida, and Louisiana, where she worked with the families of the New Orleans police officers affected by the recent Gulf Coast hurricanes.
Captain Michael Murry
Clinical Psychologist, Bureau of Prisons
Helping inmates recover from drug addiction
A drug abuse program coordinator at Federal Correction Institution, Beckley, in Beaver, WV, CAPT Murry supervises drug abuse treatment programs treating nearly 1,000 inmates a year. The prison culture presents interesting and unexpected challenges for psychologists. Having previously worked in private practice, CAPT Murry says, "The great opportunity in public service is to focus my full attention to delivering and improving professional services." He also manages a community outreach program offering crime and drug abuse prevention services to local schools and youth groups, having served more than 15,000 youth.