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CAPT Nixon Roberts | Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service Skip to main content

CAPT Nixon Roberts

March 2023 Officer Spotlight

CAPT Nixon Roberts became a dentist in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps because “I have always believed that I was called to serve the underserved, and therefore the USPHS Commissioned Corps was a natural home for me.” His career supports that philosophy beginning with the USPHS Commissioned Corps in March 2005, after having served two years as a federal civil servant. 

CAPT Roberts was initially stationed at the Indian Health Service at the Zuni Comprehensive Community Hospital on the Zuni Indian Reservation in New Mexico. The Zuni Indian Reservation is in a remote area of the state and some patients traveled long distances to receive dental care. Having spent nine years at the Zuni Comprehensive Community Hospital, CAPT Roberts treated patients of all ages and medical complexities. He says, “To me, being a Public Health Service officer is an opportunity to support a common goal of meeting the healthcare needs of vulnerable populations across the United States.” 

Eventually, CAPT Roberts relocated from New Mexico to Alaska. His Alaskan experience involved providing dental care to a native population at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. His responsibilities also included providing care to patients in the remote villages of Nelson Lagoon and False Pass, located on the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea. These villages were only accessible via bush planes or boat. Dental care was provided at the village school in Nelson Lagoon and at the local clinic in False Pass. As the sole visiting dentist, access to care occurred only once or twice per year in those remote villages and CAPT Roberts was responsible for providing all dental care to every villager needing treatment.

After Alaska, CAPT Roberts changed geographical locations once again, but this time, also changed agencies - from the Indian Health Service to the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Currently, CAPT Roberts is the Chief Dental Officer at the Federal Correctional Complex in Florence, Colorado. There, he oversees all dental needs of the inmate population. The types of treatment provided include extractions, restorations, root canals, denture fabrication, cleanings, and emergency care. CAPT Roberts says, “I believe my work contributes to the USPHS mission when I attend to the needs of those who are often ignored by the rest of society.”

To maximize the impact of his service, CAPT Roberts completed a fellowship with the Academy of General Dentistry, obtained a Master of Public Health degree, did a Dental Public Health residency, and is a board-certified public health dentist.

As a senior officer, one of CAPT Roberts’ major goals is to mentor young junior officers to participate in leadership roles in the USPHS Commissioned Corps. His observation is that leadership is not always comfortable, but nevertheless he encourages the pursuit of clinical and organizational leadership roles including those of senior clinicians and dental directorship. He also encourages participation in organized dentistry, including involvement at the leadership level of the Dental Professional Advisory Committee.

CAPT Roberts says emphatically, “I believe in our mission of responding to both domestic and international health crises.” As a result, he has volunteered for several deployments during his USPHS career. He has participated in several Remote Area Medical events all over the United States to provide necessary dental care. In July 2019, he participated in an international deployment aboard the USNS Comfort. This was a U.S. Navy initiative, but it involved a host of participants from other agencies including the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, USPHS, and military personnel from several Central and South American countries. CAPT Roberts remarked, This was an opportunity and an honor for me to represent the USPHS and to participate in joint operations to Costa Rica, Panama, and Columbia with other members of the Uniformed Services.”  He adds, It was a valuable experience and I look forward to future opportunities to represent and serve the USPHS in similar roles.” CAPT Roberts supports his caring philosophy, saying, “compassion is why I serve.”

CAPT Roberts proclaims, My advice to incoming Public Health Service officers is that you are entering a unique organization where most of your colleagues are service-oriented. As you mature in your profession, many of you will develop a desire to serve others. You will realize that your mission involves more than a job. It is a calling. As Public Health Service officers, many of us are outfitted with the service gene embedded in our DNA.  He pauses, then continues, The desire is always to do more, to provide more, and to reach more. Ultimately, you will make a difference in the lives of people who are often too poor, too isolated, or too ostracized to benefit from the advanced healthcare that is readily available to the rest of society. You are unique and there is a segment of society that will cherish the contributions you make to improve the quality of their lives.”

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