CBP’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO) faces an array of operational and workforce medical support requirements and challenges, all of which have increased significantly in scope and scale over the past several years. The recent COVID-19 pandemic brought into sharp relief the vital importance of CBP’s medical efforts, including medical support to operations, the CBP workforce and persons in custody. The office is also critical to migration crisis response and pandemic response efforts.
The Office of the Chief Medical Officer was formed to coordinate these efforts by streamlining operations, communication, and response in one unified operation. The effort is led by Chief Medical Officer Dr. David Tarantino, who guides the office to meet its many and varied responsibilities. OCMO was established in September 2020 after CBP leadership recognized a need for enhanced professional medical direction and oversight of its medical support efforts. The chief medical officer position was established the following month, in October 2020, and the formal creation of OCMO occurred in April 2022. This final process ensured OCMO had its own program of record, line of funding and budget/hiring authority. Over the past few years, OCMO has expanded to a wide-ranging organization that provides CBP leaders expert health and medical advice, counsel, and oversight and direction of medical support across agency operations.
Most recently, OCMO played a critical role in helping to combat the novel Coronavirus, COVID-19. Dr. Tarantino worked with CBP’s human resources and safety and health professionals at the beginning of the pandemic to ensure all front-line personnel had appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), and knowledge on the latest medical developments needed to protect themselves from illness.
CBP also stood up an emergency operations center at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. at the start of the COVID pandemic. Staffed by experts from components throughout CBP, to include OCMO, it played a major role in the planning and response to the coronavirus. The center fielded calls from not just across the agency, but also from news organizations and the public. OCMO was an integral part of the emergency operations center, working closely on major efforts such as advising the State Department on how best to allow travelers back into the United States, updating agency employees about how best to respond to new iterations of the virus, and continually updating the CBP COVID-19 Resource page, among other efforts.
OCMO’s work proved critical throughout the entire pandemic in keeping agency employees informed, safe, and healthy – it not only fulfilled its mission, but also learned important lessons that will guide response efforts in the future. OCMO continues to focus on enduring mission priorities which include providing optimal medical support to CBP operations, personnel, and persons in custody. The OCMO does this through inter-agency and intra-agency information coordination, workforce health protection and occupational medicine, medical support to operations, medical support to persons in custody, pandemic response, medical quality management, medical data reporting and promoting behavioral health and resilience.