Healing Medical Providers through Disaster Response

Jennifer Dengler

Jenny is a Physician Assistant with a strong desire to serve the underserved and medically disadvantaged. She currently works in a Family Practice/OB clinical setting with ER coverage in Southern Oregon/Northern California.

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I am a physician assistant and have been searching for a team to join that encompasses service, medicine, and humanitarian aid. A veteran friend of mine introduced me to TR, and it was exactly what I had been looking for in an organization. Their mission, values, and purpose aligns with my personal goals and allows me to serve those who have been impacted by disaster and provides me an avenue to continue to serve veterans.

Operation Moonshot was my first deployment and it was very meaningful to me, as I just recently lost a great patient to lung cancer who was integral in the Johnson Space program. To be in Houston where he spent the majority of his life, I was able to connect to the stories he shared with me.

Furthermore, Operation Moonshot was healing for me. Team Rubicon is an outlet to help service personnel integrate back into a service life while entering the civilian world and helps those adjusting with the effects of war and mental health. Many times, people may not consider the healing benefits on the civilian side, but in medicine, we face the highest incidence of depression, PTSD, and burnout in the civilian sector. The mental health issues in the medical field is slowly being addressed, and I have fallen victim to the effects of provider burnout and depression.

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This deployment was exactly what I needed to reconnect and set my internal compass. Hearing the stories of my teammates who have served and having the brotherhood to communicate with was very humbling & grounding.

The ability to have boots on the ground and go into these homes and have a significant impact on the families and help not only with the construction, but with their social and mental well-being was paramount.

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My deployment to Houston also came during a time that I am applying for the Army Reserve. Now that I am back with my family in Oregon, I sit staring at the perfectly folded flag from the USS Ranger presented to my children in honor of their grandfather Lieutenant Dieter Dengler (USN). I see the Sword of Loyola, the Purple Heart, the Navy Cross, and the Distinguished Flying Cross. I see the images of all the men who have visited his grave in Arlington, and I see my children next to the heroes who helped rescue Dieter from the Laos jungles. I am reminded of my uncle, Captain Eugene Wilber (retired USN), who was shot down in Vietnam and served five years as a POW in Hanoi. I am now flooded with images the men and women shared on Operation Moonshot. I am a mother, a wife to a former corpsman, and a Physician Assistant, but one thing I am not is a veteran. Now it is my time to serve.

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Thank you, TR, for your ability to heal a medical provider.