U.S. Public Health Service Cmdr. Anthony Tranchita, a graduate of UW-Whitewater, begins his day combing the newspapers for bad news.
His help may be needed.
Recently, Tranchita has been called to provide mental health services to people involved in traumatic situations such as the Sandy Hook Elementary Shootings, the Boston Marathon bombings and Hurricane Sandy.
For this service, the Commissioned Officers' Association of the U.S. Public Health Service named Tranchita 2014 Scientist Responder of the Year.
"There are two things in my career that are really rewarding," he said. "Anytime I have been able to help a patient and see them get better and then seeing how their lives have changed over time."
Tranchita, a native to Wisconsin, grew up in Cottage Grove and attended Monona Grove High School. After graduating, he continued his education at UW-Whitewater.
"I was encouraged to access the accounting program because I was always very good at math," he said.
But Tranchita's intended career path changed as he began to excel in psychology courses.
"I really liked going to UW-Whitewater because we had small enough class sizes to really work with the professors and get the attention needed," he said.
After Tranchita earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a minor in accounting at UW-Whitewater in 1994, he went on to graduate school at Utah State University, earning a doctorate in clinical psychology in 2004. After graduation, he spent four years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force, and then began looking for jobs to fulfill his desire to serve.
Tranchita was working with an adolescent substance abuse center in South Dakota when he heard about the U.S. Public Health Services.
"Once I found out about it, it piqued my interest," he said.
Tranchita commands 34 Public Health Service officers spread throughout the country. Their mission statement: Protecting, Promoting and Advancing the Health and Safety of the Nation.
Following this mission, public health officers help people who are disadvantaged, respond to disasters and address public health needs.
A typical day for Tranchita starts at 7:30 a.m. at the 319th Medical Clinic at Grand Forks Air Base in North Dakota.
"I see patients, I'm a prescribing psychologist, which is kind of an uncommon thing," Tranchita said. "Most of my direct clinical work is seeing people for medication. We're a busy little clinic with various challenges.
"What I like about my job is the variety of it. I rarely ever do the same thing two days in a row."
There are, however, many difficult aspects to his work.
"The hardest part of the job has to do with patients completing suicide. That is a very difficult thing to deal with as a clinician and as a person," he said.
Tranchita said he finds it rewarding to help people who come into his clinic seeking assistance. He credits his team members for the success of this mission.
"I don't view this as being about me, I view this as being about the team effort," Tranchita said. "I'm with incredible people that do really good things every day."
Tranchita has continued to be a lifelong learner. In 2011, he completed a post-doctoral degree in clinical psychopharmacology from Alliant International University in San Diego.
He met his wife Colette at UW-Whitewater through mutual friends in 1994.
"My wife's education from UW-Whitewater was in social work, so she understands that there are days when I have to go home and go do something else and just not talk for a little while," Tranchita said. "She's my rock, and a great support."
The couple has two children, aged 8 and 3.
While juggling family and work, Tranchita still manages to find a time to do the activities he loves most, including hunting, fishing and enjoying family trips to places such as Glacier National Park in northern Montana.
"I'm really invested in trying to give my kids different experiences. I'm trying to ensure that my children get exposed to a lot of different things so they can find what they love," he said.
-- Written by Alyssa Langer