Blog Health Care

A personal journey: The evolution of a career in military medicine

Written by Caitlyn Johnson, BA candidate, Washington University in St. Louis and participant in the Institute for Public Health 2019 Summer Research ProgramPublic & Global Health Track

Pauletta Blueitt, MHA, retired Colonel and an advisory board chair to the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, began her career in military medicine when she was offered a four-year scholarship from the Air Force ROTC program. Having grown up in a small town in Eastern Texas, Colonel Blueitt was excited to move away from home to receive higher education.

After completing her undergraduate degree in business at Texas A&M, she decided that the career she wanted to pursue in the military would be healthcare administration. After serving her required four years in the Air Force within the healthcare administration field, she decided she wanted to continue with her chosen career path. She earned a graduate degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and then became the Director of the Emergency Operations Center at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC.

Shortly after assuming this role, she reached her final rank as Colonel. In fact, Colonel Blueitt was the first African-American female in her career field to reach this rank. She then went on to mentor a younger woman that recently reached the rank of Colonel as well. At this young woman’s celebration, Colonel Blueitt, the younger woman, and the six other women who have attained this status were able to connect and coined themselves as the “Elite 8”. The younger woman even chose to memorialize their accomplishments by donating bricks in each of their honor to the Rosa Parks Museum’s Wall of Honor located at Troy University in Montgomery, Alabama.

Colonel Blueitt has been a retired military healthcare administrator for the past ten years after serving twenty-eight years in the military. As a wife and mother of three, Colonel Blueitt’s ability to allocate time for both her family and career inspired me. This is something that will be relevant to me in the future as someone who is pursuing a career in surgery.

Another piece of Colonel Blueitt’s talk that stuck with me was her call to action. At the end of the presentation, she gave us three things that we should do to make sure we are on the path to success, and I would recommend to anyone reading this to do the same. Find and be a mentor. Determine what you are passionate about and pursue that passion. Finally, know that you are uniquely positioned to make a difference.