The Call to Military Service

Pharmacy Careers, Pharmacy Careers August 2015, 0

Many pharmacists dedicate themselves to improving the health of their patients and communities, but some answer an additional call: to provide their skills and knowledge in service to the military.

Many pharmacists dedicate themselves to improving the health of their patients and communities, but some answer an additional call: to provide their skills and knowledge in service to the military.

Capt. Rohin Kasudia, PharmD, the executive officer for the 6th Medical Group at MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida, is one such pharmacist who chose to be commissioned in the US Air Force. The son of immigrants from India, Capt. Kasudia was inspired to serve in the military after witnessing his parents’ ability to build a better life for their family in their new country.

“My parents were able to start their lives in the United States with just $100 in their pocket,” Capt. Kasudia said in an exclusive interview with Pharmacy Times. “Knowing this has been instrumental to how appreciative I am for living in this country and how blessed I am for all the luck and opportunities my family had. I know the reason why we have such benefits is due, in a large part, to the men and women of our uniformed services.”

Although Capt. Kasudia knew from an early age that he wanted to serve in the armed forces, he did not formally join the Air Force until after he had entered pharmacy school.

For others, such as LCDR Vince Deguzman, PharmD, MSC, USN, FACHE, the pharmacist in charge of Naval Hospital Lemoore Pharmacy in Lemoore, California, the decision to become a pharmacist was not made until after enlistment.

“I enlisted in the Navy right after high school, and I was stationed as a pharmacy technician in the US Branch Health Clinic in Bahrain when the Navy pharmacy community started a commissioning program for pharmacy technicians to become pharmacy officers,” LCDR Deguzman told Pharmacy Times. “I only had 4 years in the military then, but I realized that my short 4 years in the military had been very rewarding and that staying in the military would open up more opportunities for me. So, I applied for the commissioning program and was accepted to go to pharmacy school.”

Capt. Kasudia and LCDR Deguzman took different paths to become pharmacists in the military, but there are other ways that pharmacists can lend their services to those in uniform. For example, some civilian pharmacists treat both active and retired members of the armed forces. In fact, the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs currently employs more than 6500 licensed pharmacists.

“All pharmacists have to be capable of practicing pharmacy with competence and know where to find the information to take care of the patient,” Capt. Kasudia said. “But fundamentally, the Air Force wants pharmacists with leadership and integrity who can inspire and empower those around them. I think it is the characteristics like that which can really distinguish military pharmacists.”

Additionally, LCDR Deguzman explained, although pharmacists in the armed forces perform many of the same roles as civilian pharmacists, they are also tasked with the responsibilities required of military officers.

“I am dual-hatted as a pharmacist and the director of clinical support services in Naval Hospital Lemoore,” LCDR Deguzman said. “I am expected to perform my responsibilities as a pharmacist, while performing a leadership role in 4 clinical service departments. More importantly, as military pharmacists, we are also naval officers, and we are expected to be effective leaders and stewards for the Navy and the resources entrusted to us.”

According to LCDR Deguzman, personnel transitions and relocations are far more common for military pharmacists than for civilians, which means there is a constant need for training and adjusting. He also said that the possibility of deployment requires them to not only keep their minds and skills sharp, but their bodies as well.

“Being in the military, we are expected to always be ready to deploy anytime, anywhere, so we always need to be physically and mentally fit,” LCDR Deguzman said. “It is also necessary to be highly resilient since we are constantly exposed to stressful conditions and constantly changing environments. Although the constant changes in the group dynamics can be challenging sometimes, it prevents complacency and provides the opportunity for learning new perspectives from new personnel.”

Capt. Kasudia added that deployments and other assignments can have a significant impact upon military pharmacists’ families.

“Whether you are married or not, you can or will be away from your family,” Capt. Kasudia said. “This is hard for pharmacists especially because after 6 to 8 years of school, all you want to do is to work and spend time with family and friends. But for those who wanted to be in the military, you come to terms with this and make the best out of your time off and see them irrespective of how far you might be away from them.”

Despite the challenges they face as military pharmacists, Capt. Kasudia and LCDR Deguzman said they consider their service in the armed forces to be an immensely rewarding experience, and they look upon their enlistment as one of the best decisions of their lives.

“What I find most rewarding about serving as a military pharmacist is the opportunity to serve our nation by providing health care to our elite warfighters, to the people who have gone before us, and to the families of our active duty and retiree population,” LCDR Deguzman said. “It is also a privilege to work side by side with fellow pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and health care professionals who share the same passion about the profession and their service to this great nation.”

“Throughout my service as a military pharmacist, I have realized that what I do can have a huge impact across the armed forces,” Capt. Kasudia added. “The military puts you in new and uncomfortable situations, and navigating through those successfully is incredibly satisfying. In the end, it makes you a better person, leader, and pharmacist.”