The Surgeon General Announces 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 is a proven leader who brings with him superb analytic, problem solving and communication skills, a strong mission focus, and critical and strategic thinking.

CAPT Demartino

On July 1st, 2012, CAPT Robert DeMartino will step into the new role as Commissioned Corps Chief of Staff.

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, CAPT 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. CAPT 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 Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred. He was among the first group of USPHS officers deployed to Ground Zero. During his three weeks 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 implementing a medical care program that provided volunteer mental health professionals 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 was encouraged to enter 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 behavioral health activities and chairs the newly chartered DoD Addictive Substance Misuse Advisory Committee.