Navy Cmdr. Kathleen Brennan Macapagal '99 Found Her Calling in Pediatric Medicine
- Alumni Spotlights
She wanted to become a nurse, and the Navy punched her ticket.
After graduating from St. Mary’s Ryken in 1999, Kathleen “Katie” Brennan Macapagal accepted a Navy ROTC scholarship to Villanova University and was commissioned into the Navy Nurse Corps in 2003 with her nursing degree in hand. She intended to stay in the Navy for the required four years, but “with the new opportunities presented at each duty station, I have continued to grow personally and professionally and have truly enjoyed each role I have had,” the commander said. “It’s crazy to think that I will have been in the military for 20 years as of June 2023!”
Katie’s father, Philip Brennan, is a retired Navy test pilot and “strongly encouraged” all three of his children to join the military as well. Patrick ’09 served in the Army for four years, and Chris ’06 joined the Marines.
Her resume reads like a Frommer’s travel guide; she’s leapfrogged all over the world, working in various naval medical centers in various roles — San Diego, Italy (where she met her future husband), Philly, the D.C. area, Japan, and now Hampton Roads, Virginia.
Along the way, she met and married her husband, Paul, who is also in the Navy, had three sons, and earned a master’s degree as a pediatric nurse practitioner. With that degree, she began to serve in leadership roles in addition to seeing patients.
Her latest assignment is as the department head for inpatient pediatrics at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, in Virginia, providing leadership and oversight for the patients, staff and nursing care in three pediatric units. She still sees patients in this role, but only once or twice a week.
“My favorite ages to see are newborn to 5 years old,” she said. “I love the rapid growth and development in the children, the confidence that parents find as their children grow, as well as the relationships I am able to cultivate with each visit.” On a typical day in the clinic, she’ll see 10-20 patients for routine and sick visits.
“I am very proud of the fact that, despite taking on challenging leadership assignments over the past 10 years, I have been able to maintain my clinical skills and clinical time as a provider,” she said. “I have learned to balance the desire to lead and the desire to care for patients in order to meet the needs of the Navy and my own personal goals.”
She said that SMR prepared her for adult life. “It showed me how to balance my faith with the demands of the world and gave me a firm foundation to move ahead.” Her two school-aged children are already enrolled in Catholic school in Virginia Beach, where they live now.
One of the biggest challenges of being a naval officer — and being married to a naval officer — is the frequent moves. They are reassigned every two to three years and have to find a duty station that can accommodate both of their careers. They have to start from scratch at each new home. But the upside is having friends all over the world, getting to travel, “and also getting the chance to take care of former patients in new locations,” she said. “It’s great to see how they have grown and how their families are doing!”
Next year when she completes her 20 years of service, she plans to retire from the Navy and start a career as a civilian pediatric nurse practitioner “wherever the next adventure takes us.” Her husband, a public affairs officer, will continue his service in the Navy. No doubt, they’ll continue to cheer on their sons — Cooper, 7, Cameron, 5, and Chase, 1 — in all their sports and explore all the new places at each new assignment.
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