NIEHS Chief of Staff Mark Miller, Ph.D., is now a commander in the Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps. As it has for the past 15 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) held a promotion ceremony to recognize officers at NIH. During the July 26 event, more than 30 officers were recognized for their dedication and service to the nation and the world, above and beyond their regular job duties.
As the NIEHS chief of staff, Miller works directly for NIEHS and National Toxicology Program Director Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D. She remarked that members of the corps agree to drop everything for rapid deployment, to help out in times of crisis.
“Mark is a great example of the officers’ commitment to health and well-being across communities, and in Mark’s case, that translates beautifully to his work as my chief of staff,” she said. “We at NIEHS are very proud of him — and no one more than me.”
Beyond the day job
Miller’s interest in serving in the Commissioned Corps started when he learned that he could work for a federal agency and yet have additional duties and responsibilities as an officer.
“I was attracted to the ability to serve on rapid deployment teams to provide field medical services in the event of a natural or man-made disaster.” He pointed out that PHS actively responded after major domestic and international events, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Superstorm Sandy, and the Ebola outbreak in western Africa.
The service continues. A mere month after Miller’s promotion, his rapid deployment team was activated to join the PHS response in Houston to Hurricane Harvey.
Two PHS officers from NIEHS, Cmdr. Debra King and Lt. Cmdr. John McLamb, responded to the call for help in Liberia during the Ebola outbreak in 2015. McLamb was promoted to commander in July 2016.
Training transformed into service
In 2010, Miller’s PHS Rapid Deployment Team, PHS-1, began transforming their mock training exercises into service missions, providing access to care for underserved populations. As the PHS-1 Deputy Planning Chief, Miller was instrumental in this shift.
In preparation and training for emergency response missions to natural and man-made disasters, the 120 members of PHS-1 held intensive health events for local residents in Kentucky, Tennessee, and the border region of Texas. As with live deployments, they coordinated with local leaders to serve a range of health needs (see sidebar).
Commitment to health
“I am thankful for the opportunity to serve the NIEHS and impact the health and wellness of millions of individuals around the world,” Miller said after receiving the shoulder boards that signify his new rank.
“By working with incredibly talented colleagues, I have been able to provide scientific underpinnings that inform regulatory, policy, and individual decisions that promote healthy environments.”
Acting U.S. Surgeon General Rear Admiral Sylvia Trent-Adams, Ph.D., presided over the event in Bethesda, Maryland. The Surgeon General serves as head of the Commissioned Corps.
“Share knowledge and experience,” Trent-Adams told the more than 30 officers. “I charge you to be the change you want to see.” She also thanked them for sacrificing in the name of public service and for fostering a love of science and math in underserved communities.