As U.S. Assistant Surgeon General, Rear Admiral (RADM) Maura Dollymore currently serves as U.S. Coast Guard Surgeon General, Director of Health, Safety and Work Life for the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). As the USCG Surgeon General, RADM Dollymore supervises approximately 170 U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps (USPHS) officers and civilian professionals who deliver health care, safety and work-life/family services to active duty USCG members.
RADM Dollymore commented on the important role Commissioned Corps officers fill for multiple agencies in solving complex problems in public health. RADM Dollymore said; “We’re not going away - we are committed to the public health mission.”
An early start with the Commissioned Corps
Prior to her enrollment at the University of Maryland Medical School, RADM Dollymore researched scholarship opportunities. Due to her deep respect for the uniformed services, she entered the Commissioned Corps in 1978 as a National Health Service Corps Scholar. After finishing training in internal medicine, she pursued opportunities to serve in an underserved area, ultimately choosing West Virginia. Following completion of medical training in 1984, RADM Dollymore was part of a three -women team of National Health Services Corps scholars who stood up a rural hospital and provided primary care to an isolated mining community for three years.
Since the 1980’s, the Commissioned Corps has made great strides in terms of awareness and recognition. During her tour in McDowell County, West Virginia, RADM Dollymore wore her service dress blue uniform every Wednesday. Later, she found out that members in the community and in her office had mistaken her for a member of the Salvation Army. In her own words, “After these revelations, and similar to many other officers during that time, I took on a personal campaign to raise awareness and to ensure that I represented the Corps proudly.”
An increase in responsibility
In 1987, RADM Dollymore transitioned out of McDowell County and pursued another tour. For the next eight years she served the Shenandoah Community Health Center in eastern West Virginia. While there, the Community Health Center administered the majority of care for Medicaid patients and patients with no health insurance. RADM Dollymore explains the work as “extremely intense,” with varied responsibilities ranging from prenatal care to caring for migrant workers. She developed a strong relationship with the local mental health clinic and treated patients with chronic mental illnesses. Over time, RADM Dollymore and her team became the primary doctors for a broad and diverse population of underserved individuals in the community.
The long history between the Commissioned Corps and the U.S. Coast Guard
After serving the Shenandoah Community Health Center, RADM Dollymore seized an opportunity to serve with the USCG. In 1995, she made the move to Cape May, New Jersey, as a medical officer at the USCG Training Center. “Most individuals aren’t aware, but [the Commissioned Corps and the Coast Guard’s] emblems both contain anchors. One of the initial mission of the Public Health Service was treating Mariners… we have had a longstanding history of joint service.”
The USCG has inherited safety missions that align with public health safety work that the Commissioned Corps performs. Because the USCG has no medical, pharmacy, environmental health and dental corps officers, they detail Commissioned Corps officers to provide invaluable medical, oral health, and environmental health services ranging from clinical care to administrative activities.
Opportunities with the U.S. Coast Guard
While at the USCG Training Center, RADM Dollymore was promoted to Chief Health Services Division. As an internist, RADM Dollymore practiced adolescent medicine, a new challenge for her with her internal medicine background. During this tour, she was exposed to many and diverse medical pathological conditions as she worked with a large volume of young people every week.
In 2002, RADM Dollymore received the opportunity to serve at the USCG Academy as its Chief, Health Services. She continued to work with teenagers, as she had in Cape May. At the Academy, she was provided increased opportunity to work one-on-one with young patients for longer periods of time. While at the Academy, she was honored with the opportunity to sail on the Eagle, the Coast Guard’s Tall Sailing Ship. “With the Commissioned Corps, I receive opportunities to do things that I’m not going to get to do anywhere else. I got to go on a transatlantic sail in a 200+ ft. sailboat; I learn something new every day.”
While serving at the USCG Academy, she changed gears from a clinical to administrative focus, assuming the role of Regional Health Administrator. One month after her arrival at the Academy, Hurricane Katrina hit. RADM Dollymore reflected that this tragedy was “baptism by fire” for her as she was in charge of medical and safety officers who deployed to provide both medical care and an assortment of critical safety related activities such as facility inspections and sanitation services.
In 2010, RADM Dollymore returned to Washington, D.C. and was assigned as Chief, Office of Health Services. In this position, she currently oversaw the TRICARE contract, which ensures that 44,000 USCG officers have access to health care. In October of 2011, she was selected as a flag officer and Chief Medical Officer (CMO) for the USCG. As CMO, her responsibilities expanded from just health care into safety and work-life/family services. She oversees TRICARE contract funding, deals with aviation accidents, oversees sexual assault prevention services, and employee assistance programs. RADM Dollymore states, “This job [as a Commissioned Corps officer] has a wild portfolio - it goes across an amazing breadth of issues.”
Advice to potential Commissioned Corps officers
When discussing what she would tell aspiring Commissioned Corps officers, RADM Dollymore said, “You need to have the desire to improve the health of our country. The Commissioned Corps has a particular focus on the individuals who are currently underserved and on the health security of our country. You may end up being a researcher, a clinician or administrator, you may serve in Health and Human Services, Department of Justice or Department of Defense - but at some level you have to have a sense of spirit, of wanting to have an impact on public health and ensuring the health security of our country.”