Maxillofacial surgeon finds Army career fulfilling

17 Oct, 2014, 18:00 ET from U.S. Army Medical Recruiting Brigade

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash., Oct. 17, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- After spending her childhood following her father to different military installations, Col. Christensen Hsu decided to join the Armed Forces herself after earning a Doctorate degree in Dentistry from the New York College of Dentistry in 1997. Today she practices as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in the U.S. Army Dental Corps, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

Hsu served four years on active duty and was stationed in San Diego, California, and Okinawa, Japan. She also served three years in the Navy Reserve. It was during this time that Hsu was given the opportunity to take part in a humanitarian mission in the Philippines.

"Participating in a humanitarian mission is extremely rewarding," Hsu said. "It's something that stays with you for the rest of your life."

Hsu had another life-changing experience while stationed in Okinawa, Japan. She met her future husband David, who was an Army Special Forces officer. Hsu decided to raise a family and stay in the military. She returned to active duty in 2004 and became a dental officer in the Army Dental Corps. Today, David and Christensen have been married for 13 years and have three daughters, 11, 8, and 2 years of age. David has been retired since 2010 and has been supporting his wife's military career while raising the girls and competing in local triathlons and Ironman Triathlons.  

Hsu took command of 673rd Dental Company Area Support (DCAS) on July 1, 2014. The unit is a subordinate command of the 62nd Medical Brigade at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. The unit's mission is to provide operational dental care to the troops who are deployed or in humanitarian missions at home or abroad.

"What a leadership opportunity," Hsu said of her new role. "We are expeditionary and deployable in order to provide operational dental care in the global setting. Our capabilities include operational dental care to the U.S. Armed Forces and Coalition Forces who are deployed, supporting Dental Civic Action Projects, and providing emergency and essential dental care to the local populace in disaster relief areas."

Hsu leads a Dental Company of Soldiers, both officers and non-commissioned officers who are trained in operational dental care. The dental officers assigned to the unit are stationed worldwide. Hsu has one dental officer (other than herself) assigned to the unit. When more dental support is needed, she will request the additional dentists and dental specialists from other hospitals and clinics within the Army.

The 673rd DCAS is equipped and manned to take care of the dental needs for as many as 43,000 Soldiers.

"We can change the configurations and create modular teams," she said. "For example, we can send out a two-man team comprised of a dental officer and a dental technician in support of a mission or we can send out everyone in the unit and provide operational dental care to an entire region. I'm very excited about this unit. The Soldiers of 673rd DCAS want to support the troops and contribute to humanitarian missions. Some opportunities currently in the planning process, will require hard work; but will be rewarding in the end."

Hsu began her career in the Army Dental Corps as a general dentist at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii. She then became an oral and maxillofacial surgery resident at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii. Following her residency she served as an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at Fort Knox, Kentucky, before taking command of the 673rd DCAS at JBLM in Washington.

Although she has a full-time job as commander, Hsu commits one day a week providing care at the Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery Department at Madigan Army Medical Center where she serves as part-time staff.

"It's a (important) balance," she said, "I dedicate the majority of my time as the commander of a unit but slice out a portion of it to focus on my specialty and help mentor oral and maxillofacial surgery residents in the residency program.

"Working with my hands came naturally for me," Hsu said. "As a young girl, I played the piano and had aspirations to become a concert pianist. Growing up in a Navy family with a father who spent 24 years as a hospital corpsman, however, strongly influenced my decision to become a healthcare professional. I still enjoy playing the piano and it's a hobby that I have passed down to my daughters."

"As an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, I would like to participate in more humanitarian missions around the world," Hsu said. "It's something I look forward to dedicating my life to after my military service."

Hsu has been extremely satisfied with her dental career in the military. She and her family are enjoying the quality of life that the Army has to offer and the adventure of traveling and experiencing different parts of the world. 

"It's an honor to be in the military and to treat the servicemen and women in the Armed Forces," Hsu said. "It's an honor to serve."

For more information about a career as a dental health-care provider in the U.S. Army go to healthcare.goarmy.com/i205.

Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzvyVsVGgko

SOURCE U.S. Army Medical Recruiting Brigade