LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas –
When Col. (Dr.) Rick Campise assumed command of the 37th Medical Group Nov. 2, it was a dual reward for him: a job he aspired to, and a homecoming.
If you had asked the Houston native in 1987, when he began his residency at Wilford Hall Medical Center, where he would be in 2009, Lackland and the Air Force weren't even on the radar.
"We originally planned to come in for three years, but my wife and I said, 'this is just too good to walk away from,'" he said. "It's kind of a surprise to be here when it was a three-year plan. I've been in the Air Force 22 years because I've had so many interesting and enjoyable experiences. It was my dream job to be a group commander."
Dr. Campise, a board certified pediatric psychologist, plans to continue his clinical practice along with his command duties. He was only the second pediatric psychologist in the Air Force to become board certified in his specialty 11 years ago.
Happy to be back after completing a six-month deployment to Iraq in early October, Dr. Campise is looking forward to the challenge of commanding the 37th MDG during a time of transformation.
"We will be transitioning back to the 59th Medical Wing in February, and while we're doing that, we'll be transitioning into Joint Base San Antonio," said Dr. Campise. "Those are huge changes.
"I'm very happy with where the 37th MDG is now," he added during a break from a calendar-packed first few days on the job. "I'm taking over a good group and (I anticipate) it will get better over the next couple of years. We have good people and good leadership within all levels of the organization (that produce) good results."
Dr. Campise came to Lackland from Langley Air Force Base, Va., where he was a medical operations squadron commander. During his first commander's call, he told his leadership he expected to see strong customer service and development of leaders from within. He also believes in enjoying the job which includes reassuring people, prevention and education.
"When I took over at Langley, a quarter of my squadron deployed within the first month," said Dr. Campise. "We had holes everywhere. I told them to train everybody to do everything in your organization (so we'll be prepared).
"To enjoy your job is the hardest," he continued, "because I can't give them any more money, people or space. The things we have control over, we'll work on those. We're going to work hard but there are things I'm going to do to make their lives enjoyable, too."
In addition to a bachelors, masters and doctorate in psychology, Dr. Campise has also served a post-doctoral pediatric psychology fellowship at Harvard University. He has received numerous awards and decorations in his career, both military and medical.
After spending the last 10 years in the Washington, D.C., area, Dr. Campise is delighted to be back in his native state.
"It's like coming back to the promised land," he said. "There's just a peace about being back in a landscape you really mesh with."