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Walter Reed doctor named Navy’s Early Career Psychiatrist of the Year

08 June 2023

From Bernard Little

By Bernard S. LittleWRNMMC Command Communications“The platform for practicing as a military psychiatrist is diverse. A day could consist of treating patients in many settings, such as inpatient and outpatients, attending meetings with multidisciplinary teams to ensure the missions are being optimized, and mentoring enlisted staff as well as
By Bernard S. Little
WRNMMC Command Communications

“The platform for practicing as a military psychiatrist is diverse. A day could consist of treating patients in many settings, such as inpatient and outpatients, attending meetings with multidisciplinary teams to ensure the missions are being optimized, and mentoring enlisted staff as well as teaching trainees,” shared Navy Lt. Cmdr. (Dr.) Eric Serpico.
Successfully handling these demands while providing safe, quality care to beneficiaries of the Military Health System (MHS) earned Serpico recognition as the Navy Early Career Psychiatrist of the Year for 2023.
“The Navy Early Career Psychiatrist of the Year Award recognizes the contributions made by a junior Navy psychiatrist. It is awarded to a member of Navy psychiatry at the O3-O4 level who has demonstrated dedicated care of patients, outstanding leadership, and novel innovations to Navy psychiatry and Navy medicine,” explained by the members of the Navy Psychiatry Executive Committee. Navy Lt. Ross Vollstedt, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command (NMRTC) Bethesda public affairs/command information officer adds that from his research, “this is one of the highest honors a Navy psychiatrist can receive, and the competition is extremely difficult. We are proud to have [Serpico] here at NMRTC Bethesda,” he added.
In addition to serving as a staff psychiatrist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC), Serpico is also an assistant professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU), inpatient psychiatry medical director, and program director for the National Capital Consortium (NCC) Psychiatry Residency program.
The NCC is the sponsoring institution for 68 graduate medical education (GME) programs and is based at USU. It’s the largest joint training site for military physicians in the military system. It includes USU and WRNMMC, as well as the Malcolm Grow Medical Clinics and Surgery Center at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital at Fort Belvoir, Virginia.
“Being recognized as the Early Career Psychiatrist of the Year has been a humbling highlight in my career for which I am grateful and honored by,” Serpico said. “My mission as a psychiatrist is to be an advocate for mental health awareness. Defining success in my career translates as helping my patients create an internally safe environment so they may functionally coexist to their optimal ability in the external world. Additionally, as I have progressed in my career, the joy of teaching the next generation of healers has been a promising part of the evolution,” he shared.
“A great benefit of being a psychiatrist in the military is that I have had the opportunity to explore a variety of subspecialized areas within my field without choosing to practice in just one. Some areas I have had the opportunity to work in include addiction, forensics, consult liaison medicine, disaster, child and adolescent, and geriatrics,” Serpico added. He explained his career in military psychiatry has been filled with operational, academic, and executive leadership opportunities.
He attended Florida Atlantic University in the Bright Future Scholarship Program. He graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science degree in 2009. “I was commissioned as an ensign in the Naval Reserves in 2010 and attended the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine in the Health Professions Scholarship Program, and earned his Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine in 2014, the same year he was commissioned as an active-duty Navy lieutenant.
“I discovered my enjoyment of psychiatry during medical school. During my psychiatry clerkship, I participated treating a diverse population ranging from children to older adults. The facility I rotated through also allowed me to become involved in a Military Wellness Program. This unit focused on preserving and restoring the mental well-being of the active-duty military men and women who serve our country. As a member of the U. S. Navy, I gravitated towards these patients,” Serpico said.
“In addition to medication management, I explored a vast array of therapeutic options, including equine therapy, art therapy, yoga, acupuncture, and themed-group discussions, to include mindfulness, self-esteem development, anger management, and more,” he shared.
“Along with the discovery of biologically derived medical conditions, today’s modern society faces the aftermath of natural disasters, dividing families, mass school shootings, teen bullying, terrorist attacks, rising suicide rates, and financial crises, to name a few struggles. These are enhanced via the exposure that comes with the territory of advancing technology. Applying my knowledge of medicine and sharing my optimism in such harsh realities, motivated me to assist in treating individuals in need of compassion. The recurring theme of my life has been to acutely form intimate bonds with others, which have led me to help them heal,” Serpico added.
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), “the U.S. had too few psychiatrists even before COVID-19 increased rates of anxiety and depression. One out of every five people in the United States had a mental illness in 2019 —51.5 million people. Then COVID-19 struck. Fear of contracting the deadly virus, the loss of loved ones, painful social isolation, economic setbacks, and other powerful stressors eroded the well-being of communities nationwide. At the height of the pandemic, 40 percent of adults reported symptoms of anxiety or depression — compared with 11 percent pre-COVID. Over time, this percentage dipped to 33 percent in June 2022, which is still higher than pre-pandemic levels.”
The AAMC reported last August that “within a few years, the country will be short between 14,280 and 31,109 psychiatrists, and psychologists, social workers, and others will be overextended as well. ‘We have a chronic shortage of psychiatrists, and it’s going to keep growing,’ says Dr. Saul Levin, medical director of the American Psychiatric Association. ‘People can’t get care. It affects their lives, their ability to work, to socialize, or even to get out of bed.’”
“The demand signal throughout the nation for mental health support is high, and the profession is undermanned, so there comes a delicate balancing act in being able to help people integrate into the health care system in a timely manner while also providing those being treated the time for high quality, reliable care amidst an active readiness-centered atmosphere,” Serpico added.
For more information concerning mental health awareness, visit For immediate help, visit the Veterans Crisis Line at; or call 1-800-273-8255 (Press 1); or dial 988, then press 1; or text 838255.

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