Portsmouth, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s (NMCP) Psychology Postdoctoral Fellowship class of 2018 received their certificates of completion during a ceremony on Oct. 2. The graduates and their next assignments are Lt. Claudia Crawford, Branch Health Clinic Iwakuni, Japan, and Lt. David Howerin, USS George Washington.
With the graduation of Crawford and Howerin, more than 40 psychology postdoctoral fellows have now completed the program since its inception.
The program affords civilians who have not yet fulfilled the post-degree requirements for licensure the opportunity to commission as naval officers and practice as psychologists in the fleet. The postdoctoral fellowship in psychology consists of two main rotations focusing on treating the top mental health disorders affecting service members. The students learn specific treatments, as well as supervision and consultation, to ensure they are delivering top quality care to their patients.
“This fellowship is about taking a college degree and a graduate degree and instruction and experience and refining it and growing it, adding in those things that go with the uniform, and then bringing your ability to care for patients to a population who needs you,” said NMCP Commanding Officer Capt. Christopher Culp, during the ceremony. “You are very well prepared to do that and I congratulate you on completing this year. You have much to gain from your upcoming tours, and at the end of the next two years, you will find it among the most rewarding things you have ever done.”
Both Crawford and Howerin were called to join the Navy after experience with providing care for veterans.
Crawford had the opportunity to work in several Veterans Affairs (VA) settings, where she heard of their experiences in the military and believed serving in the military fit her personality and desire for new challenges, new opportunities and new experiences.
Howerin grew up in the Norfolk, Va., area and completed an internship at a VA hospital. He said he has been close to the Navy and has mentors who former Sailors, so he wanted to use his skills as a therapist to give back to the Navy community.
During the fellowship year, they met with patients, providing patient care on an individual and group basis, and they coordinated with commands and provided patient advocacy. They were also part of the training of practicum students so they could also develop the skillset to care for a military population as well.
“We had specific training relating to working in the military setting, disposition of the patient, how to think about how patient diagnoses impact what happens next for patients as to their military career,” said Crawford. “There was a lot of didactics, supervision and mentors that prepared us for treating patients in the operational setting.”
“We worked on a few different rotations – the main rotation was working with patients in the outpatient setting, working with people who have depressive disorder diagnosis and PTSD,” said Howerin. “We completed some minor rotations working with chronic pain, neuropsychology, and we worked aboard a ship for a rotation. We also completed a child and family rotation.”
“By rotating through the different clinics, it helps to give us a taste of what to expect in different patient populations, such as with chronic pain, neuropsychology – learning about traumatic brain injuries,” Crawford added. “At some point, we are going to be interacting with patients and providers who may have questions about that area. It helped us to have a background knowledge of a variety of different clinical issues that we might encounter.”
By the end of the fellowship year, Crawford and Howerin agreed that the most challenging aspect was learning to balance the dual roles as a psychologist and a naval officer, and that the staff of NMCP and the professional relationships they have formed have been crucial to their success.
“I really enjoyed being able to cultivate relationships with all of my supervisors and the other trainees,” Crawford said. “It really does feel like a community, very collaborative and supportive, which helped ease my transition into the military setting.”
“I’m really appreciative of all the training faculty here,” Howerin said. “Everyone’s been super accommodating and always willing to help. I am excited knowing I have a lot of resources that I can reach out to.”
The ceremony concluded with remarks from NMCP’s Director for Mental Health, Capt. Carl Petersen.
“You are exceptionally well prepared, and this is a phenomenal program,” Petersen said. “It is very operationally focused and you are ready, absolutely ready, to take the next step. The Portsmouth bonds are tight, and at any point in time, you should always feel comfortable calling or emailing to consult on anything.”
For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit www.navy.mil/local/NMCP/.