When you join the Commissioned Corps, you become a part of a dedicated team of professionals who work to improve the health of individuals, communities, and the Nation.
Meet some therapist officers from the Commissioned Corps.
Lieutenant Commander James Cowher
Therapist, Indian Health Service (IHS)
Improving the heart health of American Indians….
For the first time anywhere in the Nation, the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, AZ, is making cardiac rehabilitation therapy accessible to resident members of an American Indian community. There, Commissioned Corps LCDR James Cowher serves as the chief of physical therapy to Navajo and Hopi patients returning from heart surgery in Flagstaff, Phoenix, or Tucson. “With heart disease the number one killer of American Indians, it is remarkable that this program is the first,” he says. “Until we opened up, patients often returned here with limited knowledge about their condition or the lifestyle changes that could help prevent a second attack, and the hospital clinics were just too far to make rehabilitation accessible.” Having the clinic at Tuba City makes it also available to family members who learn how to help the patient get healthy and remain so by changing the way they prepare food and increasing physical activity, which could help to improve the overall health of the patient’s family and the membership community. This kind of care is essential to improving the heart health of all American Indians, a goal of the IHS. LCDR Cowher enjoys the challenges and professional growth experiences in the Corps. He says, “My career with the Corps offers a broad scope of practice, great peer relationships, and autonomy in clinical practices.”
Lieutenant Junior Grade Carlos Estevez
Physical Therapist, Indian Health Service
Caring for patients, supporting the community, and nurturing overall health.
Thanks in part to LTJG Carlos Estevez, a physical therapist serving in the Commissioned Corps, the community of Idabel, OK, and its surrounding area now has access to professional physical therapy services. Before the Choctaw Nation Health Clinic opened, there was no health care facility within a 100-mile radius, forcing patients in the community to drive a minimum of 2 hours for care. In his current post at the Indian Health Service, LTJG Estevez provides a wide range of care to members of the Choctaw tribe, including wound care and the diagnosis, evaluation, and treatment of various orthopedic conditions such as injuries to and pain in the back, knee, and ankle—anything that affects the musculoskeletal system. LTJG Estevez not only provides clinical health care services to the community, but also offers moral support and a caring attitude to help improve the overall health and well-being of local citizens. "The ability to make a difference in a community with scarce health care resources makes this opportunity unique," explains LTJG Estevez.
Rear Admiral Penelope Royall
Physical Therapist, Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services
Compassionately serving America to prevent disease and promote health.
As the deputy assistant secretary for health within the HHS Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, RADM Penelope Royall leads prevention initiatives and influences health policy at the national level. She develops and promotes national guidelines for nutrition, physical activity, preventive screenings, and healthy lifestyle choices that will help prevent chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and cancer. RADM Royall helped to establish the first national guidelines for physical activity, making it a priority in disease prevention and health promotion. Earlier in her Corps career, RADM Royall provided clinical services for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. In 2003, she was deployed to Atlanta as an emergency responder after Hurricane Isabel, and provided health care hotline support after Hurricane Katrina. RADM Royall reflects, "It is an honor to be an officer. The Commissioned Corps serves national emergency preparedness needs while maintaining its role as a traditional public health service. It is a sobering and impressive responsibility."
Lieutenant Commander Terry Boles
Physical Therapist, Indian Health Service
Treating underserved patients while protecting the Nation.
Assigned to Phoenix, AZ, LCDR Terry Boles is the inpatient clinical specialist for the country's largest IHS hospital, which is a resource center for all Arizona American Indian communities and small Indian medical clinics throughout the southwest. He develops clinical care specialty programs; designs and runs health education programs for patients, families, and health care staff; and treats patients directly in ward rounds and specialty clinics. In addition, LCDR Boles is a medical center decontamination team member for mass casualty, biological, and chemical events, and part of a rapid deployment team for national and international crises. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, LCDR Boles was deployed to Louisiana, providing logistical support for medical material and personnel. Earlier in his Commissioned Corps career, LCDR Boles was an FDA investigator, protecting public health by ensuring the safety of drugs, foods, cosmetics, medical devices, and other products. He notes, "My military peers are impressed that a physical therapist can serve and protect the Nation as a uniformed commissioned officer, and are in awe of my Commissioned Corps career, with its broadening experiences and opportunities that exist in no other uniformed service."
Lieutenant Alicia Souvignier
Physical Therapist, Indian Health Service
Proud of the Corps mission, to serve those in need.
LT Alicia Souvignier is a physical therapist providing inpatient and outpatient services in a Navajo community near her hometown of Farmington, NM. She joined the Commissioned Corps through the Senior Commissioned Officer Student Training and Extern Program (SRCOSTEP), which assists students financially during the final academic year of their qualifying degree in return for an agreement to work for the Commissioned Corps after graduation. During her first assignment with the Bureau of Prisons, she treated Federal inmates in Rochester, MN. As a Commissioned Corps officer, LT Souvignier enjoys being part of a larger organization with an honorable mission, where there are many opportunities for involvement and interaction outside of her current assignment. In addition, she values the satisfaction of serving people who are geographically and economically removed from most health care services. "I love where I work, whether it is in a Federal prison or out in an American Indian community, because I feel I am providing a needed service that might not otherwise be available," says LT Souvignier. "I love what the Commissioned Corps stands for and this gives me the pride to come to work every day and give my all."
Lieutenant Commander Jodi Tanzillo
Occupational Therapist, Indian Health Service
Serving in the Commissioned Corps has afforded LCDR Jodi Tanzillo the opportunity to expand her training and treatment experience in areas that she did not have access to when she worked in the private sector in a traditional occupational therapy practice setting. Her current assignment is with the Indian Health Service (IHS) at Northern Navajo Medical Center (NNMC) in Shiprock, NM. A typical day includes a variety of duties including pediatrics, wound care, geriatrics, general medical/surgery, ICU, and hand therapy. "An exciting aspect of my current assignment was the development of the OT department after a 2-year absence of OT services. I have had the flexibility of determining the provision of services at NNMC in collaboration with the medical staff. I have also been serving on a part-time basis at another IHS facility in Chinle, AZ, during a specialty hand clinic conducted every 3 weeks," she explains. "The diverse assignment options within the various divisions of the Commissioned Corps offer exciting and challenging opportunities that allow for a satisfying career."
If you are a therapy student or a therapist interested in the Commissioned Corps, take the next step! E-mail us your questions, call us at 800-279-1605, or apply online now.