2020 Field Grade Officer of the Year wears multiple hats at 88th Medical Group

  • Published
  • By Amy Rollins
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Maj. David Tubman, a board-certified clinical health psychologist in the 88th Medical Group at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, held four separate duty titles in 2020.

His outstanding performance, creativity and diligence won him the 88th Air Base Wing’s 2020 Field Grade Officer of the Year honor.

Col. Patrick Miller, 88 ABW and installation commander, and other leaders hosted the wing’s 2020 annual awards ceremony virtually through a CVR Teams live event in January.

Tubman was one of three nominees in his category. Assigned to Wright-Patt since August 2019, Tubman served last year as:

  • Psychology Residency Training director, his primary role
  • 88th Medical Health Element officer in charge
  • Acting 88th Medical Health Flight commander
  • Chief of Clinical Health Psychology Services

Lt. Col. Ellen Wirtz, 88th Mental Health Flight commander, praised Tubman’s job performance and many roles in 2020.

“He exemplifies service before self and excellence,” she said. “He lives the Core Values, embracing them so fluidly and naturally. He is a tremendous role model for all and is a true Airman, leading with compassion and kindness. People just want to follow him.”

Wirtz pointed to Tubman’s professionalism, research of the most evidence-based practices and their subsequent implementation for good patient care, resources stewardship and effective training of personnel as key achievements.

“Sometimes, we in the military forget that these are people who all have families and personal lives and concerns,” Wirtz said. “He rises naturally to be a supportive and compassionate person. He rises to excel and brings others up with him.”

Tubman’s top accomplishments, she said, were assisting in developing the wing’s mental health COVID-19 pandemic response, transitioning treatment from in-person to virtual via videoconferencing or telephone, developing provider resources and delivering community care without exposing patients to the virus.

“He structured our processes so all the providers and technicians had a course of action to maintain the mission,” Wirtz added. “He really led that transition for us at a really critical time when people were worried about their own safety. We rolled through that transition very smoothly under his leadership.”

Because of Tubman’s work, the Mental Health Clinic is now able to offer a wider array of services, she said.

Other highlights of Tubman’s leadership and job performance are:

  • Led 120 Airmen in providing 25,000 mental-health service visits or calls while overseeing a $1.8 million budget, saving $3 million in fees had individuals needed to seek private care
  • Led the Mental Health Flight in winning the wing’s Team of the Quarter
  • Assisted in training 17 mental-health professionals, devoting 800-plus hours to designing didactics and coursework, workshops and rotations to ensure trainees received proper clinical experience
  • Presented at three Department of Defense and national conferences, training health care providers worldwide in different evidence-based therapy concepts
  • Helped design the Air Force’s first-ever embedded mental-health ethics symposium. With the Air Force’s move to embedding mental-health professionals within operational units, ethical dilemmas and situations develop. Forty-five individuals across the Air Force, Army and Navy met in San Antonio before the pandemic to develop training tools, articles, resources and feedback to mental-health leadership.
  • Partnered with Veterans Affairs, the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency and Penn State University to host training sessions for 18 mental-health professionals at six bases in an evidence-based, group-therapy protocol. National experts are now working with the Air Force to roll out “Moving Forward,” a form of problem-solving therapy to benefit service members in a classroom/group format.
  • Served as treasurer of the 300-member Society of Air Force Psychologists
  • Served as a senior consultant to help recruit critically needed psychologists to the Air Force, which led to 12 scholarship recipients and 21 new resident psychologists

“Mental-health care providers have been in incredible demand, and it’s only been growing over the years,” Tubman said. “We care for people who are often suffering and simultaneously have enormous responsibilities in their roles within the military and their personal lives.

“There is a lot at stake, so it’s important we are the best at what we do. Our flight is full of professionals at the top of their field, who are dedicated to providing world-class mental-health care, while also training other officers and enlisted members to do the same. It’s a complex endeavor that is well worth it when you see the payoff of a job well done.”

Having a solid mental-health team is part of Wright-Patt’s culture, he said.

“We understand each other, we work closely together and we appreciate each other,” the major said. “Unfortunately with COVID, it was a year of separation from each other. We had to forge a sense of togetherness, using technology to relate to one another, and technology has its issues.”

Winning the award is a reflection of Tubman’s colleagues, he said, not just his own hard work.

“This award is a product of that,” he added. “We have really cool jobs that involve creativity every day.

“I love thinking innovatively to solve novel, real-world problems. That motivates and excites me. I get to see the impact of the work we do. We have to handle new situations all the time. There are no ‘cookie-cutter’ solutions for the people and organizations we help.”

A native of Napa, California, he and his wife are raising a son and daughter, with a new baby daughter about to arrive this month. To maintain his own mental health during 2020’s many challenges, he became “obsessed” with electric guitar, playing a lot of bluesy rock – Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Mayer.

“I was working so much, I let myself go and wasn’t caring for myself that well. I started to notice that it was affecting my attitude and well-being when I let my own wellness ‘slide’ somewhat during 2020,” he said. “I realized that to be at the top of my game, I couldn’t just go with the flow.”

Tubman pursued a healthier lifestyle plan, incorporating exercise, eating well, hydration and reading personal-development literature.

The psychologist also credits his surroundings for added resiliency.

“This really is the best community my wife and I have ever lived in,” he said. “As complex and difficult and challenging as life has been, I’m surrounded by really wonderful people. Boy, has that made life so much more rewarding and meaningful and a major reason why things turned out as well as they have.”