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Rear Admiral Robert E. Pittman, U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Chief Pharmacy Officer

photo of RADM Robert E. PittmanIn his role as chief pharmacy officer, RADM Robert E. Pittman leads U.S. Public Health Service pharmacy professional affairs, advising the Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Health and Human Services on the recruitment, assignment, deployment, retention, and career development of Public Health Service pharmacists. He provides pharmacy and health system management expertise to the Indian Health Service (IHS) as its principal pharmacy consultant, a position which also allows him to examine pharmacy issues from a national perspective and provide input on how policies and procedures can be changed to improve patient care across the Nation.

RADM Pittman works to improve pharmacy service delivery throughout the IHS, implementing new policies, training, and reporting systems to reduce medical errors and coordinating details of the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. "I'm working with more than 400 IHS sites to ensure that as we implement the drug benefit in 2007, our beneficiaries are in the plans that best fit their needs," says RADM Pittman.

As a Commissioned Corps officer, RADM Pittman also responds to public health emergencies, including natural disasters. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, he served in the Office of the Surgeon General, working with the American Hospital Association to identify the needs of local hospitals in the affected areas and coordinate the resources of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to fulfill those needs.

RADM Pittman joined the Commissioned Corps in 1984 as an IHS pharmacist, providing inpatient, outpatient, and nursing home pharmacy services to Native-American tribes in Arizona. In 1991, RADM Pittman became a health care personnel recruitment specialist in the National Health Service Corps (NHSC) in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). In 1997, he served as the acting deputy branch chief for the NHSC Recruitment Branch and then became the deputy branch chief of the Peer Review Branch of HRSA's Bureau of Health Professions.

Helping those most in need is an aspect of the Commissioned Corps that has remained constant throughout RADM Pittman's career. He remembers a patient from the early days in Arizona, a Tohono O'odham (tribal elder). "I was counseling her about her medications when I noticed she had a lot of bruising, which meant that her blood thinner was not at the right dosage," he recalls. "I asked her about it, and she said she hadn't wanted to bother her physician about the bruising. So I sent her back to the doctor to adjust her medication, and she avoided having to be hospitalized."

"The Commissioned Corps has offered me an outstanding career," says RADM Pittman. "I work in many aspects of the pharmacy field-regulation, grant administration, research, and clinical care. And I've gotten to work in several government agencies in different parts of the country. I'm always telling pharmacy students to take a look at the Corps. I'm sure they'll like what they see."

If you are a pharmacy student or pharmacist interested in the Commissioned Corps, take the next step! E-mail us your questions, call us at 800-279-1605, or apply online now.

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Last updated on 7/11/2008