Mercy & Hope
Some people say doctors are like gods. Well for some people out here, Mercy has been God's gift to them.
- Commander Diviya Gautam, Indian Navy
The United States Navy [USN] completed a five month humanitarian & civic assistance tour, from May to September 2006, to the people of Southeast & South Asia. The mission was carried out by volunteers from Project HOPE and the UCSD [University of California San Diego] Pre-Dental Society along with a contingent of military medical specialists from the United States, India, Malaysia and Canada. The USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) - a non-commissioned, civilian-manned vessel of the U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command - is the vessel that played an active role in this humanitarian mission. Medical personnel from the Indian Armed Forces were in full force aboard the USNS Mercy and thanks to the United States Navy, we bring you photographs of our men & women and their valued contribution to this important assignment. The Indian Navy's mission of Bridges of Friendship Across The Seas has truly come into fruition.
Images Courtesy - United States Navy
India Deploys First Female on Foreign Ship
Commander - US Pacific Fleet, July 2006
Story by Mike Leporati, Journalist Seaman Apprentice, US Navy
Aboard USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) - The US Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy's joint medical mission, is making history with one Indian Navy doctor, Surgeon Commander Diviya Gautam, who is the first female Indian officer to be deployed aboard a foreign naval ship. During Commander Gautam's 11 years of service in her Navy, she has deployed as the second female aboard an Indian Navy ship and now her skills as a doctor & sailor are being used aboard USNS Mercy. "Women are very much a part of our military in our country. We're just not deployed on ships," she explained. Commander Gautam, a general medical officer (GMO), and nine of her Indian colleagues have brought a variety of skills to USNS Mercy on its five-month humanitarian mission to the Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia. "The tsunami tragedy in the not so developed areas of this region reminds us of our duty to mankind," said Commander Gautam and added, "Let us join hands of the world to serve the needy, sick and poor. Our navies can build bridges of friendship across oceans and reach out to them. Mercy's mission has shown us the power of healing touch." The diverse crew aboard Mercy recognizes more than race and religion; it equally realizes women are a crucial part of its staff. "I was the first one on board a foreign navy ship, and being on board a US Navy ship feels very good," said Commander Gautam. She has touched the lives of Mercy's patients and crew members during its already completed two-month stint.
"She is also very humble. I didn't know she was the first woman to deploy on a foreign ship," said Lieutenant Commander Ronda Bouwens of the US Navy, who is a family practice physician and the division officer of sick call. "She doesn't brag about being a hero…but she really is." Commander Gautam is not just a doctor and an officer in the sixth largest Navy in the world; she is also a wife and a mother. "My husband is an engineer officer in the Indian Navy posted at Mumbai. Had it not been for his support, I would not have been here today. I do miss my family very much, but it's part of my job," she said. She is stationed at the Fleet Medical Center attached to the Sword Arm of Indian Navy - the Western Naval Command. Her experience has been in emergency management, trauma, respiratory cases and working with general sick call cases. Mercy has been using her talents to treat patients before operations, in sick call and during medical civil action projects (MEDCAPS). MEDCAPS have proven to be effective tools during Mercy's mission in providing maximum treatment of patients; they have contributed to the 50,000 patient encounters in the Republic of the Philippines alone. "The team (Indian sailors) is working closely with its US counterparts and is contributing whole heartedly in the success of the mission," said Indian Navy Surgeon Commander Chandrashekhar Chaudhari, a microbiologist and added, "Because of its (the teams) success in tropical medicine and dealing with high-volume patient loads, the team members are able to deal with MEDCAPS quite efficiently."
The Indian team of doctors includes a surgeon, a microbiologist, a radiologist, a pediatrician, an internal medicine specialist and two GMOs. Mercy's crew is also assisted by paramedics, a nurse's assistant and two operating room technicians. The varied skills of the Indian team are reaching every aspect of Mercy's mission from treating the patients to logistics. "I think she (Commander Gautam) is a tremendous asset. Most of us don't have experience with this kind of medicine, so we're building on her experience," said Commander Bouwens. "I believe this humanitarian and civic assistance mission has been very good. It is well planned, fully organized and wonderfully implemented in all respects with each person on board doing his or her best to make it a roaring success. It has been the result of effective and efficient teamwork," Commander Gautam said. Aboard Mercy, Commander Gautam has interacted with numerous patients, and has voluntarily gone ashore in every stop to help treat patients. "The cheerful lady is an asset to the team," said Commander Chaudhari and added, "The mission is an example of good rapport, camaraderie and teamwork for a common cause." Commander Gautam said, "The women here are doing very well in every field. The state of our technology on board and the professionalism shown by all has given me a truly invigorating experience, which will be forever etched in my mind."