LCDR Fengyee Zhou
June 2023 Officer Spotlight
“Time and time again, USPHS has reminded me that it’s not about what you or I can do. It’s about the tremendous feats we can accomplish together.”
There are many stories worth telling. For LCDR Fengyee Zhou, the stories of his U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) colleagues inspire him to serve, and the stories of his patients make his service worthwhile.
LCDR Zhou serves as a pharmacist in the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and is stationed in Alameda, California. With both administrative and clinical aspects to his job, he provides clinical and operational support to regional USCG assets while maintaining the day-to-day operations of his pharmacy. Administratively, LCDR Zhou conducts routine site visits with the Health Services Technicians in his district to ensure maximum operational readiness. Clinically, he delivers chronic disease state management services through direct patient care.
LCDR Zhou’s first interaction with the USPHS Commissioned Corps was in 2015 as a student pharmacist on rotation at an Indian Health Service (IHS) facility. He learned about the USPHS Commissioned Corps from his preceptor and other pharmacists, most of whom were Public Health Service officers. LCDR Zhou credits this rotation as the main impetus for his eventual application and commissioning. “I heard the stories and experiences of Public Health Service officers who dedicated their careers to improving the nation’s health,” LCDR Zhou remarks. “The idea of putting the needs of others, particularly underserved communities and vulnerable populations, before myself is a noble aspiration. That rotation solidified my desire to join the USPHS Commissioned Corps.” LCDR Zhou graduated pharmacy school in 2016, began his career as a civil service pharmacist at that same IHS facility, and commissioned in December 2017.
One of the greatest advantages of serving as a USPHS pharmacist is the breadth of experiences and opportunities available. In 2019, LCDR Zhou was privileged to deploy aboard the USNS Comfort (U.S. Navy hospital ship) for the humanitarian mission in Central America and the Caribbean. For over 30 days, he served alongside sister servicemembers and other governmental partners to provide pharmacy services in Grenada, St. Lucia, and St. Kitts. The stories of fellow servicemembers on the USNS Comfort reinforced a greater purpose in serving as a Public Health Service officer, for they also hailed from all walks of life with experiences as varied as their backgrounds. Despite these differences, it was the commonality of commitment to service that unified the 1,000+ crew to serve together. LCDR Zhou’s personal experience with IHS and subsequent commissioning into USPHS drew parallels to the stories the servicemembers told on the ship: “Everyone’s life circumstances were different, but everyone nonetheless decided to bear the mantle of service towards a greater cause.”
The patients LCDR Zhou had encountered throughout his career strengthen his dedication to service. He vividly recalls two stories while on the USNS Comfort – one patient who walked over 10 miles from their village to the ship’s medical station to seek care and another patient who sobbed tears of joy and gratitude after being seen by a provider and exclaimed, “This is the first time I have been able to see a doctor in my life.” While serving as the Special Assistant to the Surgeon General, LCDR Zhou visited communities throughout the United States with the U.S. Surgeon General to hear people’s emotional stories about how COVID-19 affected their lives and communities.
In the USCG, he shares, “One of the most fulfilling experiences was working with a servicemember to manage their hypertension. At a follow-up visit a few months later, they excitedly showed me their numbers as well-controlled and thanked me for my assistance in adjusting their medications.” Stories like these anchor LCDR Zhou to the humility of wearing the USPHS uniform while reminding him of the difference he can make in patients’ lives.
When asked what being a Public Health Service officer means to him, LCDR Zhou responds, “The nation places its trust in me to champion the ideals of public health and patient care, and it is my duty to uphold that charge.”
To LCDR Zhou, a successful career in public health means embracing the work. There are long hours, stressful days, and seemingly insurmountable challenges. Yet, these experiences are what create stronger individuals, leaders, and organizations. “I try to reflect on every challenge and make it a learning experience,” LCDR Zhou comments. The quote, “There is no growth in a comfort zone, and there is no comfort in a growth zone,” accurately depicts what it means to serve in public health.
In addition to completing his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Pittsburgh in 2016, he obtained National Clinical Pharmacy Specialist in 2019 and Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist in 2020. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration through Western Kentucky University, and he hopes these credentials and skillsets will allow him to serve as a servant leader in healthcare more effectively.
At the end of the day, LCDR Zhou draws inspiration from his fellow Public Health Service officers. Every Public Health Service officer he has worked alongside has a unique story to tell about protecting the health and safety of this nation. LCDR Zhou concludes, “Time and time again, USPHS has reminded me that it’s not about what you or I can do. It’s about the tremendous feats we can accomplish together.”
My name is LCDR Fengyee Zhou, and these stories are #WhyIServe.