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 pharmacists in the Commissioned Corps below, or visit the Pharmacist Professional Advisory Committee Web site.
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.
Captain Gary D. Baker
Pharmacist, Indian Health Service
Serving in the wilds of Alaska
CAPT Baker works with the Indian Health Service and is based in Ketchikan, AK. Every day he works to improve the lives of the more than 5,000 American Indians and Alaskan Natives served by the health center. Not only does CAPT Baker work as part of the patient's clinical management team, he also operates an anticoagulation clinic, and has even helped in emergency medical crisis situations. CAPT Baker is very proud of the Commissioned Corps response to national disasters.
Commander Connie Jung
Pharmacist, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Responding to the 2005 hurricanes
LCDR Jung is "proud to be a part of a special group of clinicians and researchers who are strongly dedicated to promoting public health." This dedication was clearly evident when LCDR Jung was deployed to Baton Rouge, LA, following the 2005 hurricanes. Within hours of arriving in Louisiana, LCDR Jung set up a fully functioning pharmacy to support the emergency needs of patients affected by the storms. Today, LCDR Jung works with the FDA as a regulatory review officer and is stationed in Rockville, MD.
Captain Robert J. Tosatto
Director of the Medical Reserve Corps Program, Office of the Surgeon General
Redirecting former Soviet bioweapons scientists
CAPT Tosatto is a trained pharmacist with a master's degree in public health and business. His unique career has involved leading a bioweapons nonproliferation program in one of the world's poorest regions. His work as the director of the Office of Eurasia in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Global Health Affairs helped prevent thousands of deaths from tuberculosis, food-borne illnesses, and other infectious diseases. It also was instrumental in redirecting the expertise of former Soviet bioweapons scientists towards peaceful outcomes. Today he is the director of the Medical Reserve Corps, which plays an important role in local public health. "The Corps provides many career opportunities and allows you to have an impact on the health of the Nation," says CAPT Tosatto.
Commander Sean Belouin
Pharmacist, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)
Removing dangerous drugs from the market
LCDR Belouin's work as a pharmacist in the Commissioned Corps affects millions of Federal workers—he currently serves on a drug testing team at SAMHSA that is involved in regulating all of the labs that test employees of the Federal government for substance abuse. Previously in his Commissioned Corps career, LCDR Belouin served at the FDA as part of a project that uncovered fraudulent dietary supplements and removed them from the market, where they posed a significant threat to public health. "There is so much fluidity to move around and do different things in the Commissioned Corps," says LCDR Belouin. "You truly are in control of your own career destiny."