FORT HALL — When Blackfoot resident DeeAnne Marshal signed up to be a member of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, she made a pledge to protect, promote and advance health and safety in the nation.
The public health corps comprises more than 6,500 highly qualified, public health professionals.
Marshal is a clinical nurse and works at the Fort Hall Indian Health Service as a part of her duties. She was deployed in November 2012 to aid Hurricane Sandy victims in New York.
In all, 400 public health corps officers were on the ground in New York and New Jersey to provide direct patient care.
In a question-and-answer session the Lt. Commander had this to say:
Q. Are you a registered tribal member?
A. “No, I am not a tribal member, but my husband is Native American. He is not a Shoshone-Bannock tribal member, though, he derives from a tribe in Montana.”
Q. How did you get involved with the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps?
A. “Well, I was hired on in the civil service sector and saw the uniforms people were wearing. I was curious and wondered what the uniforms represented exactly. More or less, I kind of stumbled upon this career path. I have no regrets.”
Q. What is your educational background?
A. “I am originally from Rexburg and earned my associate’s degree from Ricks College (now Brigham Young University-Idaho). In 2001, I received a bachelor’s degree in my field at Idaho State University in Pocatello. More recently, I pursued a master’s degree in public health. That was in December of 2011. I have been a nurse now for a total of 21 years. I have been employed at Fort Hall Indian Health Service for ten years. I am also the director of childhood immunizations here in Fort Hall.”
Q. How long have you been a U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps officer?
A. “Seven years. And, it’s amazing how many people have never heard of it. We’re more geared towards helping evacuees and refugees in order to make sure their health care needs are met, that they are safe and have a place to live. We are out in full force when a natural disaster strikes. The majority of the officers are nurses, but there are also physicians, dentists, behavioral health professionals, allied clinical care professionals, dieticians, environmental health and health information managers, as well as pharmacists and veterinarians. The corps is overseen by the surgeon general. We are one of the seven uniformed services of the United States.”
Q. How many times have you been called on to respond to a disaster?
A. “I’ve only been deployed twice. Usually, we are on call every five months. I was on call in November of 2012, during the hurricane season. We are typically gone for a two week period. It all depends on your occupation. The teams are cycled through, though. As one team departs, the next one is ready to get to work. Some of the agencies we work for all year round are more lenient and allow for additional volunteer trips. It just depends on the manager and their staffing.”
Q. Did you get a chance to see the hurricane aftermath up close when you were in New York?
A. “I didn’t actually get to travel into the areas most effected by Hurricane Sandy due to safety precautions. Those I spoke with who did see the damage up close said it looked like a disaster zone.”
Q. What exactly did you do while you were there? Who did you care for?
A. “We were stationed at a Brooklyn area hospital where 86 shoreline elderly had been evacuated. Some of them were disabled, but all of them were displaced from one of three different nursing homes that were either flooded or completely wiped out. Initially, it was scary. We had some threats and were not allowed out of our area. It was a pretty safe environment inside the health center. To clarify, the elderly patients weren’t injured during all of the commotion but needed a high level of care. We came in at the tail end to wrap things up. Overall, it was a real eye-opener. I was exposed to a lot of diversity, people with all different types of backgrounds. We had interpreters in some cases. I had never heard anyone speaking Russian. So, it was kind of neat to hear that in person. It was just a big team effort. The last day we were there, they loaded us up onto a bus and shipped us off to Manhattan to do some sight-seeing. We didn’t expect that. But, it did help alleviate some of the stress we endured the prior week.”
Q. What was the other relief effort you took part in?
A. “It was another hurricane, back in 2008. It was Hurricane Ike to be exact. It was the same scenario where we went in to wrap things up and help get everyone settled into their new place of residence. We were housed at a Texas A&M University basketball gymnasium court where cots were set up. I had never been to Texas or New York before these trips.”