Tinker psychiatrist sees bigger picture of her mission, keeping Airmen mentally healthy

  • Published
  • By Brandice J. Armstrong
  • Tinker Public Affairs
Editor's note: This is the sixth story in a nine-article series about military providers assigned to Tinker.

Dr. (Maj.) Josephine de Guzman has a knack for people. In fact, when she treats one person, many others benefit.

The staff psychiatrist and medical director of the 72nd Medical Operations Squadron's Mental Health Flight cares for Tinker's active duty, but affects anyone who comes in contact with her patient.

"She shows compassion to patients as well as co-workers and colleagues alike. Her integrity as depicted in her outward behavior that denotes she can be trusted to get the job done," said retired Lt. Col. Olga Simons, Mental Health Flight commander and Dr. de Guzman's supervisor. "What sets her apart from the rest is her dedication to spend whatever time or energy to accomplish the task at hand, be it with patient care or administration."

Dr. de Guzman arrived at Tinker in November 2008, after spending three months here to help with manning. Though she plans to separate in summer 2011, she said she's gained a solid foundation and thoroughly enjoys her work. But, deciding to become a doctor didn't happen overnight.

Both of her parents are nurses and when Dr. de Guzman showed interest in medicine, her parents warned her against pursing nursing, as they work long hard hours without matching compensation.

The math major at Texas A&M University found herself at a crossroads. She really wanted to become a teacher, but also considered becoming a doctor and had taken prerequisite courses.

"Honestly, it came down to my senior year," Dr. de Guzman said. "I was still undecided and I thought, 'well, it's probably easier to go to medical school first and if I change my mind later, I could always do something else further down the road.'"

And so she did. Dr. de Guzman stayed at Texas A&M for medical school and after her first year, she received a recruiting postcard in the mail. The Texas native read about the Health Professions Scholarship Program. For every year that the Air Force paid for her schooling, Dr. de Guzman owed a year of service. She signed up, choosing the Air Force, during her second year.

"I thought it would be a neat way to do something different, experience different things, serve my country and travel," Dr. de Guzman said, "and I always joke, the different places I've been are Alabama, Ohio and Oklahoma."

Choosing her specialty was not as simple.

Dr. de Guzman had considered both pediatrics and surgery in medical school, but ultimately nixed surgery as she was not a fan of the long hours. It would seem pediatrics was a clear winner, but she wasn't sure.

Then, in her third year, Dr. de Guzman did a mental health rotation. She enjoyed it. In her fourth year, she did a pediatric psychiatry rotation and found a winner.

"I had the most fun during that rotation than any other one," Dr. de Guzman said. "It was just neat for me to be able to hear people's life stories, rather than focusing solely on their chest pain or blood pressure problems."

Upon graduation, Dr. de Guzman transferred to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where she cared for both children and adults. Since coming to Tinker, she hasn't been able to care for the younger crowd, but she's alright with that. She said one of her greatest rewards is healing another person.

"One of the neatest things about mental health is when I help someone feel better, their mood is better, they're functioning better, they're less irritable and it not only improves their life, but everyone around them -- their family, work environment," the doctor said. "When you treat someone's depression and anxiety, it's amazing; the ripple effect is a lot greater."

Of course in her 60-hour workweek, she spends a large amount of time completing administrative duties, working with commanders and sometimes delivering bad news. But, she insists the reward is in the bigger picture, healing Airmen's issue, whether it is family, work or post traumatic stress disorder, and sending them back to the fight.