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Serving Courageously In Liberia

I’m so proud of the employees of this Department who are serving courageously around the world.

HHS Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell takes a picture with Lieutenant Commander Kate Migliaccio and Rear Admiral Scott Giberson, Acting Deputy Surgeon General.

The most effective way to protect Americans here at home from outbreaks and other public health threats is to stop these threats abroad, at their source.  That’s why I’m so proud of the employees of this Department who are serving courageously around the world. 

Rear Admiral Scott Giberson is our Acting Deputy Surgeon General and is also leading the mission in Liberia to care for health care workers at the Monrovia Medical Unit, so they in turn can care for Ebola patients throughout the region.  Recently, the Monrovia Medical Unit successfully treated four patients –courageous Liberian health care workers, who now have clean bills of health.

Our team from the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is staffing a 25-bed, state-of-the-art hospital – the only unit of its kind in the region that is providing care to health care workers who may be infected with the Ebola virus.  The Department of Defense built this facility– with consultation from our Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) team and partners in Liberia.  They literally turned a field filled with grass, rocks, mud, and dirt, into a state-of-the-art medical facility that is capable of saving lives in just a little more than a month!

Rear Admiral Giberson also happens to be the proud assistant coach of his 13-year-old son’s youth football team, the Oakdale Bears.  The entire Bears team wore American flag stickers on the back of their helmets to honor the Commissioned Corps service and show their support.  After a winning game, one of Rear Admiral Giberson’s players texted him saying, “We won this for you, coach.” 

Recently, Lieutenant Commander Kate Migliaccio wrote a blog about the mission, and I want to share a few of her words:

As families in Liberia cope with the fear, there are four words that offer a bit of comfort: “The world is here.”

We are in West Africa to offer help, healing, and hope – continuing the legacy of our Corps and our country. When our neighbors need us most, we Americans open our hearts and extend our hand - regardless of whether they live in places near or far.

In this sense we are there to be “hope multipliers.” … To save lives, we need safe facilities and safe equipment, and most importantly, we need to keep the people safe who are doing the saving.

During this holiday season, we are grateful to the men and women serving abroad who are not able to be home with their loved ones.

I continue to be inspired by the service of our Department’s employees, like Lieutenant Jr. Grade Chelsea True.  She is a nurse in the Commissioned Corps who is also serving bravely in Liberia – and she’s only 23 years old.  Chelsea’s fellow Corps members know her for always having a smile on her face.  She was inspired to become a nurse after being moved by the kindness and generosity of the health care providers who cared for her little brother – he has a heart condition, and he spent much of his youth in the hospital.  Now she’s in Liberia to care for the heroic health care workers who in turn care for other people’s younger brothers and sisters. 

Together, our Commissioned Corps officers and officials with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention – along with military personnel, and teams from other federal agencies like the United States Agency for International Development – are a part of the largest-ever U.S. government response to a global health crisis.  Ebola is a top priority of this Administration from both a public health and a national security standpoint, and we’re taking a “whole-of-government” approach to responding at home and abroad.

We are all so very proud of Rear Admiral Giberson, Lieutenant Commander Migliaccio, Lieutenant Jr. Grade True, the 75 dedicated Commissioned Corps officers who volunteered for this most important mission, and all our Department’s personnel who are on the ground in West Africa. 

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