University of South Florida


a headshot of a military man

Sean Beeman, Lieutenant Colonel, PhD, MPH. (Photo Courtesy of Beeman)

From swimmer to soldier: the public health journey of Lt. Col. Sean Beeman

Although born in Kansas, USF College of Public Health (COPH) alumnus Sean Beeman considers Trophy Club, Texas, his hometown. And being a competitive swimmer in high school gave him the jumpstart to join the Navy and serve as a search and rescue swimmer for 14 years, which eventually led him down a lifelong path of military service and public health. 

After completing his bachelor of science degree in biology from the University of Texas at Arlington, Beeman changed services and received a commission as a preventive medicine officer in the Army.  

It was at this time that Beeman said he had his first experience with public health. 

“I was assigned to the Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine in Landstuhl, Germany,” Beeman said.  “Most of my work was related to environmental health. I was responsible for conducting routine and emergency water sampling, environmental compliance assessments, water system vulnerability assessments and water system emergency response planning and exercises for all Army garrisons across Europe (Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). I was also the officer-in-charge of the Preventive Medicine Emergency Response Team, which responded to potential public health crises throughout our area of responsibility.”

two men shaking hands

Beeman, pictured right, who served as the president of the Uniformed Services Environmental Health Association, an affiliate of the National Environmental Health Association, provided certificates of appreciation to presenters during the group’s annual conference. (Photo courtesy of Beeman)

Beeman said he was originally a pre-med student and discovered public health while working on his undergraduate degree. “I became fascinated with epidemiology, which led to a change in my career path,” he said. 

Beeman went on to earn his MPH with a dual major in epidemiology and environmental health with a concentration in global health from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. But when it was time to look for doctoral programs, he chose USF’s COPH.

“I looked into several programs related to communicable disease and selected five,” he said.  “I visited each of these universities and USF stood out due to the dedicated faculty and cutting-edge research and laboratory capabilities.”

a group of military people

Beeman, pictured center, second row, participating in a medical specialists’ exchange program between U.S. and Uzbekistan. He spent a week discussing what U.S. deployment preparations entail and provided examples by developing a pre-deployment package for Uzbekistan. (Photo courtesy of Beeman)

Dr. Thomas Unnasch, who has since retired as director of the COPH’s Center for Global Health and Inter-Disciplinary Research, was instrumental in guiding me and helping me develop my confidence to complete the degree,” he said. “And one of my fondest memories was of our cohort breakfasts hosted by Dr. Ellen Daley.” Daley serves as professor, senior associate dean for research and practice and director of The Chiles Center. “Getting to spend time with each other and sharing what was happening in our programs was incredibly helpful.”
Beeman said the opportunity to inspire undergraduates and graduate students as an instructor is likely his greatest accomplishment. He taught Introduction to Environmental Health for two semesters while at USF.   

“I loved every minute of teaching and being able to bring my experience to the classroom,” Beeman said. “I have kept in touch with many of my students and have provided many of them with recommendations for graduate programs and employments .”  

Beeman graduated with a PhD in public health in 2021 with a concentration in global communicable disease.

Beeman conducting soil media sampling at one of three locations in the Czech Republic in support of the Missile Defense Agency. (Photo courtesy of Beeman)“I miss the faculty and staff and appreciate their support and the opportunities provided to me during my time at USF,” he said. 

Today, Beeman is the director of the division of occupational and environmental health and an assistant professor in the department of preventive medicine and biostatistics in the school of medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, located in Bethesda, Maryland, on the same campus as Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“I try to ensure that my students get the same level of support from me that I was afforded during my PhD at USF,” Beeman said. “One accomplishment I am proud of is the graduation of three MSPH students for which I served as a committee chair or member. My first PhD student graduates this year.”

a man digging dirt

Beeman conducting soil media sampling at one of three locations in the Czech Republic in support of the Missile Defense Agency. (Photo courtesy of Beeman)

In his role, Beeman said he manages the division’s faculty and staff, oversees curriculum development, serves as an academic advisor for students in the Office of Environmental Health Services program, is a committee chair/member for master’s and PhD students in the department, serves as a member of the department curriculum committee and was elected to the faculty senate.

“This position gives me the opportunity to teach public health professionals across each of the services and help shape the future of public health in the military,” he said.  “Furthermore, I get to educate medical students about the importance of public health and what resources are available to them.”

Recently, Beeman was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and achieved diplomate status with the American Academy of Sanitarians and an “A” designation in the Army (military equivalent of Diplomate of the American Academy of Sanitarians status). 

The Academy website says becoming a diplomate in the academy denotes achievement of a high standard of professionalism with marked distinction and testifies to a record of accomplishment in the field of environmental health.

“I was first credentialed as a registered environmental health specialist for several years,” Beeman said. “After many years of practice in the field, completion of a terminal degree and publications in peer-reviewed journals, I submitted an application for consideration by the academy. The idea is to recognize those who are preeminently qualified in environmental health and are contributing to its advances at the national/international level.”

two men posing with a flyer

Beeman, pictured left, performing his last action as the medical advisor for Kandahar Airfield with a surprise inspection on a restaurant and closed it due to significant food safety violations. (Photo courtesy of Beeman)

Beeman was recently informed that he was selected as the next director of preventive medicine for the 18th medical command in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he said he will be responsible for the development and execution for Army public health programs across the Indo-Pacific region.

“Public health is important because it gives us the ability to create programs that have population-level impact and reduce disease and injury,” Beeman said. “Many of the most significant impacts to longevity are the result of public health endeavors. From a military standpoint, the greatest impact to military strength is disease and non-battle injury. The ability to reduce this impact increases our ability to execute our mission.”

Fast Five:

What did you dream of becoming when you were young?
A professional musician. I was originally a music performance major when I graduated high school.

Where would we find you on the weekend?
Playing ice hockey, cooking/baking, reading a book or spending time with my wife and kids (when they are visiting).

What is the last book you read?
“Cobra Event,” by Richard Preston

What superpower would you like to have?
Flight – which is funny because I am afraid of heights.

What’s your all-time favorite movie?
I am a huge fan of cheesy comedies from the ‘80s.

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Welcome to the USF COPH news page. Our marketing and communications team is entrusted with storytelling. Through written stories, photography, video and social media we highlight alumni, faculty, staff and students who are committed to passionately solving problems and creating conditions that allow every person the universal right to health and well-being. These are our stories.