When Angela Giles graduated from New Jersey’s Northern Burlington County Regional High School, she had no idea her path would lead to Virginia Peninsula Community College.
Growing up as a military dependent, Giles wanted an impactful career dedicated to supporting veterans and their families. Today, she is a behavioral health consultant with the Department of Veterans Affairs in its Primary Care Mental Health Integration program. She has been sharing her expertise for 16 years at the VA's Hampton Medical Center.
She collaborates with medical providers to offer a holistic approach to veterans' care, addressing mental and physical health concerns. The gratification lies in witnessing patients’ progress, helping them realize the correlation between their physical and mental well-being.
“We engage both provider and veteran in shared decision making. I provide support for mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder and physical health concerns. The patient may also have health concerns – diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain,” she explained.
“I love when veterans make the connection that their physical ailments impact their mental health…My father was a veteran so my philosophy has always been, treat the veteran like I’d hope someone would treat my dad if he was being seen in someone’s office,” she added.
Giles’ ascent to her dream career began once she settled in Hampton Roads and ultimately looked to VPCC for higher education in 1991. She completed studies two years later and emerged with an Associate of Applied Science degree in Human Services.
She was ready for her next chapter.
“I had an internship when I was majoring in Human Services,” said Giles. “The advisor encouraged me to also volunteer to see if I wanted to work in that field or what area I wanted to focus. The internship and the suggestion about volunteering solidified my decision to pursue the degree further.”
The calling to support veterans through “education, advocacy, and mental health treatment” stayed top of mind, and Giles transferred to Christopher Newport University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work after being in the 2 + 2 program at VPCC.
She entered a master’s program at Virginia Commonwealth University and took a one-year internship working as a diagnostic counselor. Her career commenced from that point, leading to a robust professional background in social services.
Giles has held positions that run the gamut in her field – diagnostic counselor, probation officer, therapist, private foster care social worker, intake officer, family group conferencing coordinator, and licensed clinical social worker. Employers -- Newport News Seventh District Court Circuit Unit and Riverside Health Systems -- have benefited from her knowledge and skills.
While the diverse work experience provided insight into the complexities of mental health within different contexts, it also fueled Giles’ desire for further education. As such, she obtained a doctorate from Arizona State University. In addition to her VA position, she is faculty associate with ASU’s Doctor of Behavioral Health program in its College of Health Solutions.
“I’ve been there nearly 10 years,” she noted.
Giles’ dedication extends beyond her professional sphere. She serves on the VPCC Educational Foundation board with a profound commitment to its mission. A member of VPCC’s Alumni Association in 2018, she established a scholarship in her late mother’s name to support aspiring human services professionals.
“I think it’s extremely important for me as an alumna to serve on the board. It’s a way for me to give back to a great institution that played a major part – was an integral part of my educational journey,” she said.
Giles, a past member of CNU’s Alumni Association, has ties with several professional and civic organizations. Among those are the American Diabetes Association, Collaborative Family Healthcare Association, Society for Social Work Leadership in Health Care, and the Advisory Board for CNU’s Social Work program.
For her efforts, numerous awards have come Giles’ way, including the Integrated Health Excellence Award through the Integrated Physical and Behavioral Health Alliance (2022), VCU School of Social Work Spotlight 2022, VPCC Distinguished Alumni Award and the VPCC Alumni Board Spotlight 2020.
She acknowledged her parents – Thomas and Marie Giles along with her siblings Jean-Pierre Giles and Marie-Francoise Giles – as her greatest sources of support. Grateful for their influence, she continues thriving in her aim to enhance veterans’ lives.