Alumni Spotlight: Mitch Seal, Class of 1996

March 16, 2020
Mitch Seal meets with Rick Perry
Mitch Seal meets with Rick Perry

It has been nearly 20 years since we last checked in with Mitch and Helen Seal, both graduates of MUSC College of Nursing. When we last spoke to the couple, Mitch was running education and training at the Naval Hospital in Guam while Helen worked as a school nurse at a Department of Defense middle school. A lot has transpired since then. 

Even though Mitch Seal, Ed.D., MEd-IT, BSN ’96, R.N., retired from the U.S. Navy five years ago, he remains an active figure in the military community. In 2017, he was selected as the founding dean and chief academic officer of the College of Allied Health Sciences (CAHS), one of four colleges that make up the Uniformed Services University (USU). In this position, he advises the university president on a variety of issues related to non-privileged graduate and undergraduate health science technical and professional education, research, and workforce development.

CAHS, headquartered on Joint Base San Antonio in Texas, partners with existing graduate programs as determined by each of the military services, as well as with the Department of Defense's Medical Education and Training Campus (METC) for undergraduate programs. This unique health sciences school educates and trains highly competent military personnel who are dedicated to serving the needs of the uniformed services and the United States. Just as important, it recognizes transferable college credits that can lead to a degree award from USU. Active military and veterans are at significant disadvantage when try to transfer college credit because requirements vary from college to college.

Seal retired from the Navy in July 2015 at the rank of commander. Following retirement, he served as the dean of the School of Online Learning at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas. He also served on White House roundtables for military and veteran credentialing and licensing, and worked as a key administrator in the design, establishment, and operation of the METC – the world's largest allied health campus.

Prior to joining the military, Mitch was a student at the University of Oregon. Before graduating, he left the university to try his hand as a musician and quickly learned, life on the road in a blues band isn't as glamorous as he thought it would be. So, after a year of traveling up and down Washington's coast, Mitch entered the military by enlisting as a drummer in the U.S. Navy Band. 

After basic training, he reported to the Charleston Navy Base to play in the Navy band and decided to pursue his education once again. He earned an associate's degree from Trident Technical College then enrolled in MUSC's Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. It was during this time that he met a fellow nursing student named Helen Palmer who would change his life.

The couple married in 1997, following Helen's graduation from the BSN program. Mitch worked as a training officer, medical-surgical staff, and charge nurse at Charleston's Naval Hospital. At the same time, Helen was a floor nurse at Trident Regional Medical Center in Summerville. 

Helen has also had a successful and varied career. She has served in various positions within the Department of Defense (DoD). Helen has worked as contract patient safety specialist, a charge nurse, and a faculty member at San Diego City College. Following Mitch's retirement from the METC, Helen went back to work for the DoD, where she currently serves as the clinical coordinator for thousands of students throughout hundreds of locations in the U.S. and abroad.

Mitch says he owes a lot of his success to the endless support of his wife. "To this day, the military says they got the better deal when they traded Mitch for Helen," he quipped.

During Mitch's 25-year Naval career, he would go on to earn his master's and doctoral degrees while on active duty. By summer 2020, the Seals will have served the Navy and the DoD for a cumulative 53 years. 

Seven questions with Mitch:

1. What is one of your favorite things about your current job?

We are blessed with the privilege of changing the lives of thousands and thousands of heroes for the better, forever.

2. How did the MUSC College of Nursing prepare you for what you are doing now?

The College of Nursing prepared me to think critically. While the Navy gave my wife and I the opportunities, the College of Nursing gave us the tools. We were well prepared.

3. What are your favorite memories of the MUSC College of Nursing?

  • My favorite memory is meeting the spouse of my dreams.
  • Dressing up like Cee Cee Clark during the annual class celebration to explain that norming patho-phys scores in a minimum competence discipline is a bad idea.
  • Throwing a manikin out the window dressed as “Super Nurse” for the finale of our video project.

4. What is the most valuable piece of advice you have ever received?

My dad told me that nothing you can be proud of in life is easy.

5. What advice would you have for a MUSC College of Nursing student?

Work hard, play hard, love hard.

6. In what ways has your MUSC College of Nursing experience had an impact on your career and who you are today?

Our experience in the College of Nursing has changed our lives completely, would not have found each other, and could not have done it otherwise.

7. Please share one of your favorite quotes.

"Get that into your computer," said with emphasis by Margaret Ann' Killer' Kerr, a former faculty member who passed away in 2017.

Keywords: Spring 2020