Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Scientist Professional Advisory Committee

Deployment to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria Support, 2017 

By LCDR Lisa Jarvis-Durham, PhD

Deputy Director
Business Services Group
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Center for Program Integrity


What was the mission of this deployment?

Hurricane Maria support, Oct 7 - Nov 3, 2017. The Coqui-1 Team provided medical care, shelter, and public health support to citizens who were displaced after Hurricane Maria hit the Island of Puerto Rico.


What was your role during this deployment?

Served on the Nursing Team as a Nursing Assistant.  Assisted with patient care (i.e., glucose checks; assisted with personal care, feedings, etc.)


Was this your first deployment?



What was the most important thing you learned during this deployment?

You must always remain flexible in a deployment environment.


What did you enjoy the most about this deployment?

Watching the varying levels of collaboration.  I was amazed at how many entities arrived on the Island to provide support (i.e., armed services, National Guard, FEMA, DMATs, etc.).


What would you consider to be your major accomplishment stemming from this deployment?

Serving in an area outside my normal deployment role, which is administration and medical records support. 


What were some of the challenges that you experienced during this deployment?

Too many unknowns about the deployment prior to leaving for and upon arrival to Puerto Rico; constant adjustment to multiple lodging locations (i.e., ship, Convention Center, arena where patient care was provided, and hotel); little to no options for laundering clothing.


How did you prepare for the deployment – personally or work-wise?

First and foremost, took care any personal responsibilities and obligations to include finances and preparing family for time I would be away; gaining approving from my leadership to attend to attend support my RDF-4 Team; prepared staff for absence by delegating duties and providing adequate support and coverage.


Were there any classes, trainings that you had completed prior to your deployment that helped you in your current deployment?

Trainings on the Puerto Rican culture while in the staging area and after arrival on the island.  I found this to be very useful/helpful.


How was your post deployment/reintegration experience? Was it smooth to transition back to your daily life as experienced prior to deployment?

There were no issues reintegrating back to home and work life. I appreciated the fact that the Mental Health Team was available if needed upon arrival to Atlanta. I did receive a call (wellness check) and shared a great deal of my experience.


Do you have any advice or “pearls of wisdom” for fellow officers who are being deployed/interested in deploying?

Flexibility is crucial.


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