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    Ramstein captain, Saint Francis native, serves as public health officer, veterinarian for Southwest Asia wing

    Ramstein Captain, Saint Francis Native, Serves As Public Health Officer, Veterinarian for Southwest Asia Wing

    Photo By Master Sgt. Jenifer Calhoun | Capt. Nancy Lester, public health officer and licensed veterinarian with the 380th...... read more read more

    SOUTHWEST ASIA -- At her deployed base, Capt. Nancy Lester was one Airman who took time out to recognize World Veterinarian Day on April 24, and even "Be Kind To Animals Week" in early May. Why? It might be because she not only has a love for animals, but she also serves as a public health officer and veterinarian for the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.

    A 2005 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's School of Veterinary Medicine, Lester serves with the 380th Expeditionary Medical Group at a non-disclosed base in Southwest Asia. She described her deployed duties and how they affect the mission.

    "As a public health officer here, I perform general preventative medicine duties," said Lester, who is deployed from the 86th Medical Group at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. "However, at this and my previous deployment, I also use my veterinary medicine skills. Here, I assist with the military working dogs by performing arrival and departure exams certifying their health for international travel. I also tend to any other health questions/concerns the kennel master and dog handlers have regarding their dogs."

    The captain, a certified medical technologist, said that although military working dogs are Air Force assets their medical care is directed by the Army Veterinary Corps.

    "Often, I communicate with the Army command veterinarian who has oversight of these dogs," Lester said. "The dogs here are quite bright-eyed and driven to work. The handlers have impressed me with their attention to detail and have expressed genuine interest in the health of the MWD's. When I work with MWD's, it is indeed different than working with family pets. There are different maladies to consider as these dogs have a very active lifestyle and work that takes them around the world.

    "Since most MWD's are either German Shepherds or Belgian Malinois, there are breed specific medical conditions you have to keep in mind too," Lester said. "I really enjoy seeing the unique relationship/bond between the dogs and the handlers. Usually, the better the relationship, the better the dog's performance."

    Having a veterinarian in the Air Force is unique, Lester said, but not unheard of. Many of them are like her - public health officers.

    "When people hear I am a military veterinarian, they assume I am with the Army since they have the Veterinary Corps," Lester said. "There are a bunch of us Air Force public health officers who are licensed veterinarians."

    She explained the benefit of the Air Force having licensed veterinarians. "Human physicians are trained on caring for individuals," she said. "However, veterinarians are trained to care for a group of animals - such as a herd. So when we are creating and implementing preventative medicine practices and performing disease epidemiology for our populace, we are really caring for the local 'military herd.' We affectionately refer to this as 'herd health.' Air Force veterinarians are important as we can do public health for both humans and animals.

    "Additionally, the majority of globally emerging diseases are zoonotic -' meaning that they can be transmitted between humans and animals," Lester said. "As species' influenzas mix and as micro-parasites become less discerning to who their new hosts will be, veterinary public health officials have the knowledge of many species to identify and control such novel diseases."

    After graduating college in Wisconsin, Lester said she joined the military for many reasons but mostly to learn more and to help those who are serving.

    "I joined the military to serve those who are serving," said Lester, whose hometown is Saint Francis, Wis. "I also knew I would learn military public health, which has some distinct differences compared to civilian public health. I figured that if I learn more about human public health, then I could better serve communities by combining human and animal preventative medicine."

    Her current deployment to the 380th AEW is also not her first. Lester described how every new assignment, and deployment, has helped her military career develop.

    "At my first duty station at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, I worked at the Army veterinary clinic in addition to working in the base medical clinic," Lester said. "It was there that I learned how to care for military working dogs. My veterinary passion is shelter medicine and overall community education and health as animals are intimately a part of families.

    "My last deployment was in Baghdad, Iraq, with a civil affairs brigade in 2008," she said. "There I did some public health work, but mostly provided preventative medicine care to large animals such as goats, sheep and cows, while working with different Army, Navy and Marine units throughout Iraq. That was a great experience."

    The 380th EMDG is a sub-unit of the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing. The wing is home to the KC-10 Extender, U-2 Dragon Lady, E-3 Sentry and RQ-4 Global Hawk aircraft. The wing is comprised of four groups and 12 squadrons and the wing's deployed mission includes air refueling, surveillance and reconnaissance in support of overseas contingency operations in Southwest Asia. The 380th AEW supports operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

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    NEWS INFO

    Date Taken: 05.20.2010
    Date Posted: 05.20.2010 01:33
    Story ID: 49983
    Location: (UNDISCLOSED LOCATION)

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