Rear Admiral Thomas J. McGinnis
Pharmacist Chief, Pharmaceutical Operations Directorate Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (HA/TMA)
Since his childhood in New Jersey, RADM McGinnis wanted to become a pharmacist. "I used to go to the local pharmacy in the small town where I grew up and watch the pharmacist in his old-style pharmacy talk to people and help them triage minor injuries. I always wanted to follow in those footsteps and help people," he recalls. For more than three decades, RADM McGinnis has been living that dream, while fulfilling his call to service in uniform.
In 1976, he began his career in the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) in the Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (COSTEP) program while still a student at Rutgers University. His COSTEP experience in Washington, D.C., introduced him to PHS officers who explained the career opportunities that the Corps provides. Learning from this externship opportunity, he decided to apply to the PHS upon graduation from Rutgers, a decision that ultimately brought him to Washington to work with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). He had found his calling.
In 1977, RADM McGinnis joined the FDA and served the next 27 years in a variety of staff and senior management positions. The positions included Drug Information Specialist, Chief of the Drug Information Services, Acting Director of the Division of Drug Information Resources, Deputy Associate Commissioner for Health Affairs and, ultimately, Director of Pharmacy Affairs in the Office of the Commissioner, where he was the agency spokesperson on a variety of pharmacy related topics.
In addition to his day-to-day PHS responsibilities, RADM McGinnis served as Incident Commander of a 250-bed USPHS Special Needs Shelter in Alexandria, Louisiana, following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The two shelter structures were affectionately dubbed "Camp Disco" and "Camp Chaos," and were located in an abandoned discothèque and YMCA, respectively, on the old England Air Force Base. He jokingly recalls using a washing station outside and implementing a "solar power" hair drying system for his staff – an approach that conserved the limited generator power. Despite the extremely difficult conditions, the experience remains the highlight of his career. "By far, it was the best thing I ever did – it was the most challenging and yet the most rewarding," McGinnis recalled. "The patients gave us their blessings every day and were so very thankful that we didn’t leave them on their own during that difficult time."
In December of 2005, RADM McGinnis joined the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs/TRICARE Management Activity as the Chief of the newly formed Pharmaceutical Operations Directorate. He directs the TRICARE Pharmacy Benefit Program for about 9.6 million eligible uniformed service members, retirees, and their dependents/surviving family members. It is a $7.5 billion program providing outpatient prescription drugs to beneficiaries and evaluating all prescription medication for cost-effectiveness. Under his leadership, the TRICARE Pharmacy Benefit Program began covering immunizations at network pharmacies in 2009 and, in 2010, saved $30.8 million by implementing and promoting greater usage of the TRICARE Mail Order Program.
In addition to his daily duties, RADM McGinnis is the Senior PHS Officer assigned to the Department of Defense (DoD), and as such, oversees all matters concerning PHS officers who serve with DoD. There are approximately 210 PHS officers supporting DoD, including service at Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.
RADM McGinnis received the PHS Meritorious Service Medal, two PHS Commendation Medals, the PHS Achievement Medal, and many other citations. He has served on Surgeon General Task Forces and numerous FDA committees. In 1994, he was named Alumnus of the Year by the Rutgers College of Pharmacy Alumni Association.
"I’m energized every minute I’m in uniform," RADM McGinnis said. "It feels like I was commissioned in PHS only yesterday; but, the reality is that it’s been more than 33 years." "I am very proud of my role as a uniformed officer serving to protect and promote the good health of the people of this nation."
Captain Dana Lee Hall
Pharmacist, Department of Health and Human Services/Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response
Coordinating emergency response
A truly effective medical response to a natural or man-made disaster requires a coordinated effort in which communities, states, tribes, and Federal agencies work in partnership. CDR Hall, a pharmacist in the Commissioned Corps, is dedicated to ensuring such an organized response to any calamity or disaster. She serves as the regional emergency coordinator for Region VII for the assistant secretary of preparedness and response, which includes Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and Iowa. CDR Hall and her team help state, tribal, and local authorities in the region deal with the medical impact of any major disaster. This includes conducting rapid needs assessments during emergency operations, providing materials needed for medical response, and serving on emergency response teams. She believes that her service in the Corps has given her far more opportunities than a regular job. “The Corps has enabled me to become a leader. Being a pharmacist, serving my country, and being a part of the Corps have given me great pride,” says CDR Hall.