Q&A With NSW Force Medical

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Geneva Brier

Drobina
Captain Barbara J. Drobina, Naval Special Warfare Force Medical Officer

Why did you originally join the military?

“I joined the Navy to help fund medical school. I was granted a two-year health professional scholarship. In return, I had a three-year payback. My initial payback was done 16 years ago. I attended the University of Osteopathic Medicine and Health Sciences, Des Moines, Iowa.”

Did you always know you wanted to pursue a career in the medical field?           

“I didn’t decide to go into medicine until I was in a graduate program for exercise physiology. During this time, I was taking classes and studying with osteopathic medical students. They got me interested in osteopathic philosophy and I applied for medical school the following year. My undergraduate is in human nutrition and dietetics.

What was your favorite duty station?

“My favorite duty station (twice) has been Sigonella, Sicily. I first went there in 1997-2000 as a general medical officer. I returned about ten years later as a staff emergency medicine physician. I really enjoyed the history, the culture of Sicily, the opportunities and Italian people.”

How long have you been with Naval Special Warfare?

“I have been at Naval Special Warfare since July 2014. Prior to NSW, I was with Naval Special Warfare, Group 3 for three years.”

Can you describe a typical work day?

“A typical day at NSW is a mixture of meetings, [processing] medical waivers for the NSW [force], approving credentials for my licensed providers (which NSW has over 100 licensed providers), working with Bureau of Medicine & Surgery and other operational type commanders, developing force medical policy and procedure.”

What do you like most about your job?

“My favorite part of my job is working with my medical staff. They are dedicated and hard working. I also provide my senior medical officers with guidance on how to resolve some of their local medical issues.”

Have you ever deployed?

“Yes, I have deployed three times. I deployed in 2006 with 1st Marine Expeditionary Force to Iraq as a forward surgical team physician for nine months, in 2010 with SEAL Team 8 to Iraq as the Task Force-17 surgeon for a total of four months and again in 2011 with SEAL Team 10 to Afghanistan as the Special Operations Task Force-South East surgeon for another four months.

Have you completed any special training within your community?

I attended the Navy’s undersea medical officer training. The training lasted for six months divided between Groton, Conn. and Panama City, Fla. In Florida we attended dive school to qualify as a Navy diver and to lean about the dive rigs that are used in the dive community. I also completed a three-year emergency medicine residency at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va. In addition, I have received training for being an undersea medical officer for dry deck shelter operations.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

The highlight of my Navy career was being promoted to captain. My promoting officer was my good friend, peer and mentor, Captain Joel Roos. The ceremony was held at the U.S. Capitol building overlooking the Mall with a view of the Washington Monument. After my ceremony, I had the honor of promoting two of my friends to commander.

What advice would you give junior sailors that want to follow your path?

Work hard and stay dedicated and focused. If you experience setbacks, regroup and try again. Don’t be afraid to try something new or move to a new location.

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