May marks Military Appreciation Month, a time where Americans pause to honor the important role that current and former U.S. Armed Forces members have played in the history of our country. This year, we pay reverence to military members whose service and sacrifice is being made on the front lines of COVID-19. During the pandemic, active-duty service members, reservists and National Guardsman medical staff have been redeployed to support hard-hit areas of the country. Mobilizing quickly to help battle COVID-19, many service members in our HCA Healthcare family answered the call of duty. Read their heroic stories below…
At HCA Healthcare, we exist to give people a healthier tomorrow. Our many colleagues who are currently, or were formerly, in military service have bravely acted to fulfill that purpose in extraordinary ways – most recently, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the virus began spreading in the United States, some areas were hit much harder than others and many communities found themselves in desperate need of extra medical assistance. More than 50,000 men and women in the Reserve and National Guard, were called to action to respond to the unique needs of the pandemic, including several HCA Healthcare colleagues and active and affiliated physicians.
For these HCA Healthcare colleagues, service is at the forefront of everything they do, committing their life to providing superior patient care no matter where they are in the world. While this battle involves an unfamiliar and invisible enemy, they have risen to the occasion and provided relief to those who needed it most.
Meet several of our healthcare heroes who redeployed to serve our country during the COVID-19 pandemic, many of whom helped with patient care in New York, the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States.
Kate Lee, surgical services director
Capital Regional Medical Center (Tallahassee, Florida)
Kate Lee serves our patients as the surgical services director at affiliate Capital Regional Medical Center in Tallahassee, Fla., while also serving our country as a Navy reservist. As part of her service to our country, Kate was called to New York along with 500 other Navy Reserve medical professionals in the battle against COVID-19.
After completing training at Javits Federal Medical Station, Kate was deployed to a hospital in Brooklyn, where she worked on a support team for the ICU nurses and took care of the sickest of patients. While the days were long and exhausting, Kate was proud to protect the American people and carry out HCA Healthcare’s mission: Above all else, we are committed to the care and improvement of human life.
While she was in New York, Kate had the full support of her colleagues at Capital Regional Medical Center, as well as her support team at home, which included her husband, Ben, and her son, Aidan. She attributes being able to keep in touch with her family via FaceTime to giving her the strength she needed to carry out her duty.
Dr. Eric Stem, orthopedic surgeon
Summerville Medical Center (Summerville, South Carolina)
For more than three weeks, Dr. Eric Stem, an orthopedic surgeon at Lowcountry Orthopedics and colonel in the U.S. Air Force Reserve, treated COVID-19 patients in New York City. But he originally wasn’t called to serve. When another doctor and reservist with a heart condition was activated, Dr. Stem volunteered to go instead.
“It was pretty incredible how quickly things got ramped up to get everybody there to support this national emergency,” Dr. Stem told The Summerville Journal Scene.
Upon returning home, Dr. Stem, who is also commander of the 315th Aerospace Medicine Squadron at Joint Base Charleston, quarantined for two weeks. Now back at work, he was recently surprised at Summerville Medical Center with a hero parade, during which colleagues and family waved American flags and cheered for Dr. Stem to thank him for his service.
“Be safe; maintain social distancing, wash your hands,” Dr. Stem advises. “I think wearing a mask is a very appropriate thing to do. If you’re feeling OK, it does not mean you may not be infecting somebody.”
Arielle Tango, ER nurse
Lawnwood Regional Medical Center (Fort Pierce, Florida)
In her civilian role, Arielle Tango serves patients as a nurse in the emergency room at affiliate Lawnwood Regional Medical Center. She also serves our country as a sergeant in the Florida National Guard.
As the United States began to see a rise in coronavirus cases, the increasing need for testing became evident, and Arielle was deployed to support South Florida’s COVID-19 testing sites.
In her role as a combat medic with the 256th Medical Company Area Support, Arielle established procedures for the testing sites, trained other service members on personal protective equipment (PPE) and helped to create the process for data collection.
“Our role here is to provide testing to the public after they meet screening criteria. It is a very dynamic process,” Arielle told dvids in March. “The need for data tracking became quickly evident.”
The operations she stood up to obtain data helped the testing sites with quality assurance and provided a reference point for medics on the testing line who might have been exposed to COVID-19.
She added, “Being able to make a difference and to protect the general public and our Soldiers is everything to me.”
Dr. Raja Talati, primary care physician
Heart and Family Health Institute (Port St. Lucie, Florida)
As a primary care physician at Heart & Family Health Institute and a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, Dr. Raja Talati’s commitment to serving his community is clear. And in early April, that commitment was evident once again when he was deployed to New York as a reserve citizen airman and flight doctor for the 927th Air Refueling Wing as part of the ongoing fight against COVID-19.
“Being in New York and caring for patients fighting COVID-19 is a service I am proud to provide,” Dr. Talati says. “Though the days are challenging, I am honored and humbled to support my fellow physicians as they treat these patients.”
Thank you to all of the brave men and women of our military. We send our deepest gratitude to those who serve our nation with selfless courage and tremendous sacrifice.
Nashville-based HCA Healthcare is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services, comprising 186 hospitals and approximately 2,000 sites of care, including surgery centers, freestanding ERs, urgent care centers, and physician clinics, in 21 states and the United Kingdom.