Full Steam Ahead: Dr. Michael H. Mittelman, President
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Full Steam Ahead: Dr. Michael H. Mittelman, President

Dr. MittelmanWhen Michael H. Mittelman, OD ‘ 80, MPH, FAAO, FACHE, took on his new mission in 2013, it was- in a way - a homecoming. After 33 years, Dr. Mittelman retired from the U.S. Navy, a Rear Admiral and former Deputy Surgeon General, and returned to his alma mater to become Salus University’s  sixth president.

Prior to his appointment by the Salus University Board of Trustees, Dr. Mittelman’s exemplary career included posts around the world – covering land, sea and air responsibilities – as he became one of the most influential medical professionals to serve in the American military. Only a partial listing of his accomplishments include being the first Navy aerospace optometrist; the first optometrist to command a major naval hospital (Naval Hospital, Okinawa, Japan); the first non-medical doctor to serve as a combatant command surgeon in the U.S. Pacific Command; the first non-medical doctor to serve as the command surgeon for the U.S. Joint Forces; and the first clinician to lead the Navy Medical Service Corps.

Dr. Mittelman also directed the comprehensive U.S. military medical response as part of Operation Tomodachi (Operation Friends) following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The life-saving emergency response operation involved dozens of naval vessels, more than 150 aircraft, and upwards of 24,000 service personnel. 

Just as in his previous life, Dr. Mittelman’s accomplishments continue to make a significant impact: this time for the University. “My goal, wherever I’ve been, is to make the place better than when I arrived,” he said.

Dr. Mittelman working with students in an optometry lab

He did this just two years into his presidency, when he pushed to make Salus a smoke-free campus, citing “the health and well-being of our students, faculty and staff” as the highest priority.

More recently, he continues to oversee upgrades across the University’s facilities, as part of the five year strategic plan to help guide the University into its next century. These projects have included: the Learning Resource Center (LRC); the Clinical Procedures Lab; the College of Education and Rehabilitation (CER) Lab; the Lombardi Classroom; and remodeling of The Eye Institute (TEI). The upgrades have also included new technology in classrooms. “I am proud of how we have leveraged technology into the curriculum,” he said recently.

Drs. Ragonessi, Mittelman, and BrayWhile he is impressed with the newest technology put into place for students’ access, he is perhaps most passionate about interprofessional education (IPE). He continues to stress that all Salus programs work together, just as healthcare systems do today across the country. “It’s imperative that we train future providers to not only become cultured in providing patient care, but to interact with colleagues across healthcare professions,” he said.  He also sees Salus continuing to develop partnerships and affiliations with other institutions but he also believes in the need to affiliate with a healthcare system, which would help facilitate clinical rotations across programs.

Although IPE is not a new concept to the founding College, the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO), with Dr. Mittelman at the helm, it continues to be a core focus. He is excited for new ideas to continue to energize the institution that take it to the next level necessary to ensure the institution achieves a truly interdisciplinary curriculum.

As PCO celebrates its centennial anniversary, Dr. Mittelman encourages students, staff, and alumni to learn about the past and present of the institution and to look forward to making great strides for the future.