When you join the Commissioned Corps, you become a part of a dedicated team of professionals who work in a variety of agencies across the country to improve the health of individuals, communities, and the Nation.
Captain Joan Hunter
Director of Psychological Health, Joint Surgeon’s Office, National Guard Bureau, Department of Defense
Finding her call to service, one population at a time
CAPT Joan Hunter graduated college with a degree in History and thought her career would eventually take her to Washington, D.C. She even served as a legislative intern on Capitol Hill. But it wasn’t politics that eventually brought her to Washington; it was a distinguished career with the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS).
After spending a few years in the workplace, CAPT Hunter returned to college, earning her bachelor’s degree in Nursing from George Mason University. Soon after, she answered an ad in The Washington Post seeking a private contractor to provide healthcare to federal employees. After just a short period of time on the job, her supervisor asked if she wanted to continue her job as an officer in the USPHS.
“Having seen all the uniformed nurses having great careers, I loved the idea of joining the Corps, giving back to my country and appreciated the opportunity to provide quality health care to a population that really needed it.”
Upon entering the USPHS in 1992 as a Lieutenant (0-3), CAPT Hunter’s first assignment was as a “floater” occupational health nurse with the Federal Occupational Health (FOH) program, a reimbursable agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Program Support Center (PSC). In this role, she rotated working in federal occupational health units, similar to small clinics, at various federal agencies in Washington, D.C. The opportunity, she said, enabled her to have wide-ranging of experiences that allowed her to understand the various missions of many federal agencies, including the U.S. Mint, the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Bureau of Prisons (BOP) and the General Services Administration, among many others.
“I enjoyed everywhere I was sent, learned the details about what each agency did,” CAPT Hunter said. “There are so many opportunities within the USPHS. You can really create your own career path.”
In 1996, as a LCDR (0-4), she made the decision to “try something different” and spent one year at the Health Resources and Services Administration in the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, a program that reviews of cases of individuals or children who believe were harmed as a result of a vaccination.
One year later, she was asked to return to FOH as the Deputy Division Director of the Employee Assistance Program. She stayed in this role for 11 years, eventually achieving the rank of Captain (O-6). While at FOH, she directed policy and operations for a federal consortium network of 436 Federal agency components, serving the mental health needs of approximately thousands federal employees and their families.
“Jumping from worker to administrator was a fascinating experience. I had to begin focusing on business processes as well as customer service. It was a great challenge!”
In 2008, CAPT Hunter began her current assignment as the Director of Psychological Health for the National Guard, a joint program that supports the behavioral health needs of the National Guard’s 460,000 soldiers and airmen and their families in the 54 U.S. states and territories. In this capacity, she serves as principal staff and advisor to the Chief of the National Guard. CAPT Hunter has been tasked to "build" the National Guard’s psychological health program. CAPT Hunter partners with the National Guard Bureau’s Manpower and Personnel Directorate as well as the Joint Surgeon’s Office, specifically on availability, accessibility, quality and effectiveness of the psychological health services provided to Guard members and their families.
“My experiences throughout HHS, partnering with SAMHSA and HRSA, has provided me with a unique perspective which certainly allows me to better serve the National Guard population,” she said. “Every day I believe I’m making a difference for our Guard soldiers and airmen who deserve the best we can offer.”
For her outstanding service as a USPHS officer, CAPT Hunter has been honored with numerous awards, including the HHS Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service.
Lieutenant Commander Jane M. Mattila
Nurse, Indian Health Service
Caring for an American Indian community
LCDR Mattila, a Commissioned Corps emergency room charge nurse serving in the Indian Health Service, grew up in Hamel, MN, not far away from the sovereign Nation of Red Lake. During nursing school, she realized she could live her dream of providing health care services to all community members. LCDR Mattila works hard each day to care for patients that range from pediatric to geriatric. She delivers all levels of care, including injuries resulting from traumas, gun shots, assaults, cardiac arrests, and automobile accidents. One of her most meaningful experiences serving as a Commissioned Corps officer in Red Lake happened the day a healed patient made a special trip back to the emergency room to say thanks. LCDR Mattila says, “Working in Red Lake is the best job I’ve ever had. It is such an honor to be able to provide needed health care services to such a wonderful community. If you love to eat and love to laugh, this is the place to be. The people of Red Lake enjoy creating a potluck celebration for any occasion.” As a Commissioned Corps officer, she feels a great sense of pride in her work and strives to be a good example for peers and new officers.
Commander Thomas Pryor
Nurse, Office of the Secretary
Serving the underserved
CDR Pryor, a nurse who has served in many different capacities, is currently a Senior Recruitment Specialist in the Office of the Surgeon General in Rockville, MD.
He is committed to increasing public awareness about the Commissioned Corps and the opportunities available for those who are impassioned to serve the health care needs of vulnerable populations.
Prior to his current assignment in recruitment, he served the Jicarilla Apache Health Care Facility in Dulce, NM as a public health nurse. He served a caseload of approximately 30 patients in the area, often driving as far as 60 miles to make visits to the homes of tribal elders who did not have their own transportation. “Part of my interest and one of my growing areas that I want to explore more in nursing is community development, and there’s no better place to do that than to work in the community in the individual’s home, assisting them with their health care needs,” CDR Pryor explains. He also served a number of patients at the facility, where he provided everything from diabetes education to treatment of patients in renal failure. Of his time in the Indian Health Service, CDR Pryor notes, "As a nurse, I have had a fervent desire to provide care to underserved populations, especially those of the Native American population."
In addition to his domestic duties, CDR Pryor has also volunteered for international deployments for natural disaster response efforts, including the tsunami in Indonesia. He has also participated in response efforts for various hurricanes within the U.S. CDR Pryor describes himself as a “health diplomat” and an advocate for health diplomacy in terms of public health awareness, both on a local level with the community he serves, as well as nationally.
Captain Ellen D. Simmons
Nurse, Indian Health Service
A career of "firsts"
Throughout her 20 plus years in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, CDR Simmons is proud to acknowledge that she has been a part of many "firsts." In 1984, when CDR Simmons joined the Commissioned Corps as a nurse, HIV had just been identified by researchers at the CDC as the virus that caused AIDS. Several years later as the disease spread across North America, CDR Simmons and her colleagues at the Indian Health Service (IHS) opened the first HIV/AIDS clinic in Oklahoma for American Indians living there. Today, the clinic serves more than 40 clients a year, providing medical care and case management services. CDR Simmons continues to be involved with the clinic as the HIV/AIDS coordinator, in addition to her work as the health services coordinator for the larger facility's 350 employees and the case manager for the facility's workers' compensation program.
Captain William Gregory Wood
Nurse, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
HIV care, emergency response, and more
CAPT Wood, a nurse in the Commissioned Corps, works at the FDA to ensure that all marketing and correspondence undertaken by drug companies are consistent with FDA laws and regulations. In more than 25 years of service with the Commissioned Corps, CAPT Wood has undertaken a number of efforts that have benefited the public. Working with a group of colleagues, CAPT Wood identified an alarming trend for HIV disease in American Indian populations, specifically in the southwest regions of the United States. CAPT Wood was appointed as the first director of the HIV-Diabetes-Oncology Centers of Excellence in Phoenix, AZ. CAPT Wood has been involved in a number of deployments, including an anthrax deployment in 2001, and deployments related to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He started his career at the Corps as a nurse officer in Anchorage, AK.
Lieutenant Commander Leorey Saligan
Nurse Practitioner, National Eye Institute, National Institutes of Health
Specializing in complicated illnesses
As the only nurse practitioner serving inpatient and outpatient clinic admissions at the National Eye Institute, LT Saligan takes medical histories and performs physical examinations and provides primary care to patients enrolled in National Eye Institute protocols for general eye disorders, sarcoidosis, glaucoma, and cornea problems. The outpatient clinic alone serves an average of 8,000 patients annually. "The patients I serve have complicated illnesses, so I developed the skill to explore all possibilities and effectively collaborate with other members of the multidisciplinary team." LT Saligan also works with pharmaceutical companies to provide medicine for people who cannot afford it.
Lieutenant Commander Christopher Howard
Nurse, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health
On the cutting edge of cancer research
Fighting for the Army in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and serving at Walter Reed as a staff nurse and clinical educator would be a satisfying career for most people. But LT Howard wanted more. The opportunity to work at the National Institutes of Health and perform clinical research in the oncology division inspired him to transfer from the Army to the Commissioned Corps. He explains, "The opportunity to do cancer research and be on the front end of that—almost like pioneering work—was an opportunity that I knew wouldn't be afforded in the Army." The National Cancer Institute is the leading Federal agency on new approaches to treatments. One such breakthrough is applying chemotherapy directly on tumors during surgery, instead of having patients receive chemotherapy through an IV or central line.