JUNE 2, 2015, COLON, Panama (NNS) – Medical Service Corps (MSC) officers assigned to the Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) are providing essential support during the six-month Continuing Promise 2015 (CP-15) mission.
Thirty-two MSC officers are working alongside joint-military personnel, host and partner nation counterparts and non-governmental organization medical volunteers, to provide medical care and training alongside 11 countries in the Caribbean, Central America and South America.
“The MSC has a long history of supporting health and medical activities around the world,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jesus Thompson, the director for administration aboard Comfort. “On any given mission day, you will find an MSC officer teaching a health seminar, conducting clinical exams, or serving as a medical site officer in charge. Their work and dedication continues to demonstrate Navy Medicine’s commitment to global health and national security.”
CP-15 hosts a diverse group of MSC officers with various specialties including health care administration, industrial hygiene, physical therapy, entomology, optometry, and microbiology among others. The group has come together from commands throughout the U.S. to include, Naval Heath Centers in Charleston, South Carolina, and Annapolis, Maryland, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, and Naval Hospital Jacksonville, Florida.
“This mission draws on the experiences and strengths of such a diverse team of professionals,” said Lt. j.g. Amy Welkie, assigned to Naval Health Clinic Annapolis, Maryland, and serving as a the military liaison for the participating non-governmental organizations (NGOs). “CP-15 team members have the opportunity to work with fellow MSC providers, host and partner nation professionals and NGO volunteers to create a global health dialogue and network. I’m lucky to be a part of a mission that is building trust across nations.”
The Medical Service Corps was officially established Aug. 4, 1947 when President Harry S. Truman signed the Army-Navy Medical Service Corps Act. Originally comprised of four specialties, supply and administration, medical allied sciences, optometry and pharmacy, the MSC now has more than 3,000 active duty and reserve officers in 31 specialties.
“Since 1947, highly trained Navy MSC officers have deployed in support of building partnerships, conducting both Navy and joint mission operations and providing humanitarian assistance and disaster relief,” said Thompson. “Today, in support of Continuing Promise, we still hold fast to an unremitting duty to service.”
Thompson explained that the lab, pharmacy and patient administration professionals are considered “the backbone” of the medical engagement sites and that clinical services such as optometry and physical therapy are among the most sought after services.
A new MSC addition to the CP-15 mission is the audiology specialty. School-age hearing screenings, lectures on hearing conservation and the clinical support of the surgical mission have added a more robust capability to the mission explained Thompson.
The MSC officers have greatly contributed to CP-15’s ability to provide more than 30,000 host nation citizens with medical services including labs, pharmaceuticals, surgical procedures and more.
Additionally, the team has facilitated numerous subject matter expert exchanges (SMEEs) covering more than 350 health-related topics.
“We are highly engaged in these SMEEs and partner with host nation providers to teach seminars to patients and the general public,” explained Thompson. “Seminars on women’s health, mental health, occupational medicine, preventive medicine, environmental health and health promotions are taught in every country.”
The CP-15 team is currently providing services in Colon, Panama, and has completed missions in Belize, Guatemala, Jamaica and Nicaragua. Remaining mission stops include Colombia, El Salvador, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Haiti.
Continuing Promise is a U.S. Southern Command-sponsored and U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet-conducted deployment to conduct civil-military operations including humanitarian-civil assistance, subject matter expert exchanges, medical, dental, veterinary and engineering support and disaster response to partner nations and to show the United States’ continued support and commitment to Central and South America and the Caribbean.