In honor of Veterans Day 2022, Rear Admiral (RDML) Pam Schweitzer, PharmD is my guest. She is a pharmacist, and she was the first female Assistant Surgeon General of the United States. She retired in 2018. You will hear me address her as “Pam” throughout the interview as we discuss:
- Her career in the Public Health Service (PHS),
- The PHS Women’s Leadership Support Group (WLSG),
- Her vision for interoperable medication lists,
- An upcoming PBS Documentary called the Invisible Corps,
- And more!
Rear Admiral (RDML) Pamela Schweitzer retired in September 2018 from a four-year term as the Assistant Surgeon General and 10th Chief Pharmacist Officer of the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. As Chief Pharmacist Officer (first female in this role), RDML Schweitzer was responsible for providing leadership and coordination of more than 1,300 PHS pharmacy officers in 13 agencies with the Office of the Surgeon General and the Department of Health & Human Services.
Of her 29-year career in federal service, she most recently served at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Previously, she served in varied assignments in the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). Since retiring, she continues working on a number of public health related projects, improving health and access to healthcare, interoperability and reimbursement for clinical services.
RDML (ret) Schweitzer was recently honored as part of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA) Campaign, “Next 10 Women in Pharmacy,” representing the many women who serve in federal pharmacy, both uniformed service and civilians.
Subscribe to or Follow The Pharmacist’s Voice ® Podcast!
Links from this episode
RADM Pamela Schweitzer on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pamela-schweitzer-50638b16/
USPHS Commissioned Corps: https://www.usphs.gov/
USPHS Ready Reserve: https://www.usphs.gov/ready-reserve
Indian Health Service Pharmacy Residency: https://www.ihs.gov/pharmacy/resident/
WLSG Private Facebook Group: https://m.facebook.com/groups/555892787934626/
🖥Check out Kim’s websites, and connect with her on social media!
✅Business website https://www.thepharmacistsvoice.com
✅The Pharmacist’s Voice ® Podcast https://www.thepharmacistsvoice.com/podcast
✅Pronounce Drug Names Like a Pro © Online Course https://www.kimnewlove.com
✅ACX (Audiobook Narrator Profile) https://www.acx.com/narrator?p=A10FSORRTANJ4Z
Highlights from our conversation
According to Dr. Schweitzer, those in the USPHS Commissioned Corps want to make a difference in the world.
How did Dr. Schweitzer’s USPHS career begin?
She first heard about the USPHS Commissioned Corps when she went to a pharmacy meeting. There was a USPHS booth featuring pictures of Alaska, which interested her. When she joined, her first assignment was with the Indian Health Service in rural South Dakota, providing medical care to American Indians and Alaska Natives. She learned many leadership skills throughout her career, including “leading from behind,” integrity, putting the mission first, and influencing change.
Do USPHS Commissioned Corps Officers get to choose their assignments?
During her career, Dr. Schweitzer changed roles and locations several times. USPHS assignments are different from military assignments. There are choices for assignments and invitations to take assignments. There can also be a promotion opportunity for changing assignments, and some roles can be regional or national. Dr. Schweitzer explained that once assigned to a duty station, you might be there a few years. Once you develop all the skills you can at that duty station, it’s time to look for a new opportunity.
Relocating duty stations fosters personal growth.
About relocating from one duty station to another every 2 or 3 years, Dr. Schweitzer said, “You learn a lot about yourself. You learn a lot about working with each other. And you realize when you’re in this environment, you all depend on each other, and you get some good friendships. Every single time we’ve moved anywhere, the relationships we’ve developed have lasted.”
USPHS Commissioned Corps Uniformed Officers are team players.
Collaboration was a strong theme throughout our conversation. There are many healthcare disciplines in the USPHS, and team work is expected. Because they also got to know one another socially outside of work, there was a lot of camaraderie.
How did you become the Assistant Surgeon General of the United States?
The role is a four year term. Qualified candidates are notified about the opportunity. Some of Dr. Schweitzer’s mentors encouraged her to submit her name. They assured her that she was ready. The selection/vetting process was extensive. Ultimately, she became the first female Assistant Surgeon General.
Interoperable medication lists
Dr. Schweitzer loves interoperability. Keeping up-to-date medication lists can be frustrating for patients. If they want a comprehensive medical record and medication list, they have no choice but create their own. There is no such thing as a truly interoperable medical record or medication list in the year 2022. Dr. Schweitzer is an advocate for interoperable health records and medication lists because they could improve communication between patients and healthcare providers.
Personal sacrifice during times of crisis
USPHS Commissioned Officers are mission-focused and passionate about public health for the US. They make personal sacrifices in their roles. During public health emergencies, USPHS Commissioned Officers put in a lot of time away from their families. **Thank you for your service!**
USPHS Women’s Leadership Support Group
Dr. Schweitzer started a support group for women in the Public Health Service called the Women’s Leadership Support Group’s (WLSG). The Mission is to provide a forum for female officers from all categories to come together in a supportive environment to share ideas and experiences in support of the overall development and wellbeing of female PHS officers. The WLSG is a committee under the Health and Wellness Committee of the Commissioned Corps Women’s Issues Advisory Board (CCWIAB), under the US Surgeon General. As a group, they have a voice, and they can share concerns with the Surgeon General.
Dr. Schweitzer was interviewed for the PBS Documentary “Invisible Corps.”
It’s the first documentary about the US Public Health Service Commission Corps. Filming is complete, and it will be published Nationwide on PBS in May 2023.
In her closing remarks, Dr. Schweitzer expressed her gratitude for everyone in uniformed service. They are a dedicated group of people.
Thank you Veterans for all you do!
Thank you for listening to episode 185 of The Pharmacist’s Voice ® Podcast!