The Navy employs approximately 200 clinical psychologists, and after July 26, Samantha Giangrande (PsyD ’19) will be one of them. After graduation, she will head to the Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in Kings Bay, Georgia, to provide clinical care to service members and their families for conditions that are typical to civilians as well as those that are unique to military personnel.
“The scope of treatment is broad,” says Ms. Giangrande. “We can provide a good perspective on how service members can be prepared for deployment but also how to help them transition to come home. We have a unique understanding on mental health—particularly the risk of suicide.”
The issue of veteran suicide is critical; a study in the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine found that combat veterans are more likely to have suicidal thoughts associated with posttraumatic stress disorder, and are more likely to act on those thoughts, than civilians.
Beyond suicide risk management, Ms. Giangrande says her role can also entail assessing and selecting soldiers to serve as military police officers or embassy guards. “We want to be sure we’re selecting the right people to serve.”
Ms. Giangrande joined the Navy after speaking with recruiters as an undergraduate studying psychodynamic psychology at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York. She then decided to further her education, and chose PCOM’s doctorate in clinical psychology program for its focus on cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, and its proximity to a medical program.
“When I first came to PCOM, I participated in shared medical appointments, so a DO student and I saw a patient together,” she says. “We spoke to one patient who had diabetes, and it was very collaborative. The DO student talked about diet, exercise and medication, while I talked about motivations for living a healthier life and validating the patient’s experience.”
In her second year, Ms. Giangrande arranged an event called Paint PCOM Purple—purple being the color of domestic violence awareness—during which representatives from A Woman’s Place, a domestic violence organization in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, came to help DO students better assess their patients for signs of sexual assault.
She says this collaborative environment helped her as she started her rotations. At one of her recent placements at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, California, she worked with many patients in chronic pain.
“I worked closely with the physical therapists to understand their perspective, and wanted to share mine as well,” she says. “The goal is to communicate with each other in a way that ensures we are both on the same page, and doing what’s best for the patient.”
Ms. Giangrande adds that this collaborative spirit will also help as she serves her patients in the military. “I have a unique experience as a military psychologist that allows me to engage with dynamic populations and employ a specialized approach to treatment," she said.