A Dream Made Real
A Sailor's Seven Year Voyage to Commissioning
Christina was having a routine morning. Medical was a little busy because it was a periodic health assessment (PHA) day. Thirty to fifty Sailors were standing in line anxiously waiting for lab techs like Christina to draw their blood.
She had just finished with a patient when another Corpsman came to tell her that she'd received a call at the front desk, and more importantly that he didn't know who was calling. It could only be her husband, and as another professional, he would never call unless it was something really good or really bad.
"HM1 Lucaterodiaz," she said when she picked up the phone, waiting for the shoe to drop.
"How about Lt. j.g. Lucaterodiaz!" her husband replied.
Finally, after personally witnessing seven years of hard work and dedication, Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Fransisco Figueroa, got to be the first person to inform his wife, Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Christina Lucaterodiaz, that her dream of serving in the Medical Service Corps was about to be realized.
The Medical Service Corps Inservice Procurement Program (MSC-IPP) provides college training opportunities in both undergraduate and graduate levels to enlisted personnel. The program leads to a commission in the Medical Service Corps. Participants attend fully funded schooling to complete their qualifying degree without a break in service.
To qualify for the program under Lucaterodiaz' chosen field, health care administration, candidates must have a bachelor's degree in healthcare administration, business administration or a management-related discipline.
On the military side, qualifying candidates must have an impressive performance record, strong academic potential and a favorable recommendation by the individual's commanding officer.
Lucaterodiaz first heard about the program as a 3rd Class Hospital Corpsman, and hit the ground running on her education. She earned her Bachelor's degree in Healthcare Management from Southern Illinois University and immediately went on to finish her Master's degree in Administration, with a concentration in Healthcare Administration from the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas Lucaterodiaz' master's degree affords her the opportunity for a direct commission, meaning she will not require further academic training to start working as a Medical Service Officer.
"I always felt I had the inclination for administrative work," said Lucaterodiaz. "I've always liked the medical field, I wanted to stay Navy, and I was mentored by a lot of Medical Service Corps officers who were prior enlisted."
One of those mentors, Lt. Cmdr. Trent Freeman, volunteered to help her put together her package for the program. Lucaterodiaz put her first package together by herself, and was not selected.
"It's a very competitive program," said Lucaterodiaz. "Most applicants need to reapply three or four times to be accepted if at all. Even so, when I didn't get selected the first time, I wondered if I should reapply. It's the same 'me;' the same package."
Freeman was more than happy to help.
At the Medical Education and Training Campus, Lucaterodiaz worked as an instructor within the Medical Laboratory Technician Program. Freeman observed her superior performance as an instructor and her passion for helping others, and her selection for Navy Medicine Training Support Center Instructor of the Year.
"Petty Officer Lucaterodiaz will be a great role model as an officer," said Freeman. "She achieved many accolades, while balancing her family life and working towards a Masters of Healthcare Administration. She will inspire greatness in many Sailors."
Despite having only been on Boxer for a short time, Lucaterodiaz has already impressed her peers and many members of her chain of command as well. Lt. Daniel Lund, Boxer's Medical Administration Officer, said he was completely unsurprised by her admittance into the Medical Service Corps.
"Her interest in the program was one of the first things she mentioned in our initial interview when she came to the ship," said Lund. "There are a lot of corpsman who want to do Healthcare Administration, but Lucaterodiaz is really an outstanding Sailor. If I didn't know better, I would have guessed that she already was a Medical Service Corps Officer."
The Health Administration branch of the Medical Service Corps, according to Lund, can be one of the most challenging because of the variety of jobs it covers. Health Administration is the support branch of the Medical Service Corps. Depending on the platform, a Health Administration Officer's job can be completely different from one duty station to the next.
"You have to be flexible," said Lund. "You may be pulled in 10 different directions and you have very diverse responsibilities. You have to be able to multitask well, and you have to lead people who may be much more of a subject matter expert in a specific area than you are."
In five years, said Lund, Lucaterodiaz will be a senior lieutenant, probably a department head at a major hospital. She could be the comptroller, or in charge of the human resources department, or patient relations. She will have a lot of responsibility in a very short amount of time.
"She's already a great leader," said Lund. "I think if anything I'll be learning from her as well."
Lucaterodiaz has completed a seven year journey. Lund and her other mentors are helping her discover what comes next.
"I was very excited, but also a little scared when I found out I was accepted," said Lucaterodiaz. "Things are happening very fast and I have to prepare for what's ahead for myself and for my family."
After her commissioning, Lucaterodiaz will travel to Newport, R.I. for Officer Development School, a special program for officers who are commissioned directly, rather than going through Officer Candidate School. From there, she will go to her first duty station as a Medical Service Corps Officer.
"Dreams do come true! I couldn't be more proud of Petty Officer Lucaterodiaz for both her accomplishments aboard Boxer and her determination to become an officer within the Medical Service Corps," said Capt. Martin Pompeo, Commanding Officer, USS Boxer.
"Boxer's loss is the MSC's gain. She will be a valuable asset to any wardroom or any hospital staff in the very near future!"
"If you have a goal and you work really hard, it's possible," said Lucaterodiaz. "You will encounter obstacles, but you have to keep trying. You decide how far you go, no one else."