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Defending the Homeland: NHB/NMRTC Bremerton’s PHEO leans in on COVID-19 pandemic

Three men standing in front of a military medical tent Dr. Dan Frederick, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Bremerton public health emergency officer (right), is joined by Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz (middle) and Cmdr. Bryan Wooldridge (left). The three have served as co-PHEOs for Navy Medicine's response to help stop the spread of COVID-19 in the Pacific Northwest. (Official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer)

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It’s been long days preparing for the unpredictable, limiting the unforeseen and controlling the unexpected. Such is the case during a pandemic outbreak for a Navy public health emergency officer (PHEO).

As soon as timely epidemiologist collaboration was required with Kitsap Public Health District and Washington State Department of Health to protect, prevent, and preclude citizens from COVID-19, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton had just the qualified staff member – Dr. Dan Frederick.

Serving as NMRTC Bremerton’s PHEO, Frederick has been crucial in conducting force testing for operational readiness.

“Our role as PHEO is as advisors,” explained the retired Navy captain. “Just like at national, state and county levels, as subject matter experts, we help leadership develop policies and directions.” Due to the all-consuming nature of this particular pandemic, two other physicians – Cmdr. (Dr.) Robert Uniszkiewicz and Cmdr. (Dr.) Bryan Wooldridge – are serving as co-PHEOs.

Some of the PHEO priorities have included, providing COVID-19 advice; assisting the NMRTC-Bremerton healthcare team with patient screening, testing and management; frequent contacts with local public health officials such as Kitsap Public Health District to ensure consistency of messaging; and communicating with beneficiaries and the surrounding community on updates and temporary modifications of services at NMRTC Bremerton by a variety of methods such as audio care calls, town hall meetings, and live Facebook streaming.

Image of Dr. Dan Frederick wearing a mask
Dr. Dan Frederick, Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Bremerton public health emergency officer has been at the forefront for the command's support for internal Navy commands as well as external municipal partners in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. (Official Navy photo by Douglas H Stutz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton public affairs officer).

“Dr. Frederick has been instrumental in helping us push vital COVID-19 information to our tenants and families,” said Navy Capt. Rich Rhinehart, Naval Base Kitsap commanding officer.

“His contributions have had a tremendous impact on Naval Base Kitsap's COVID-19 prevention and response efforts. It's a true privilege to work alongside Doctor Frederick and the NHB/NMRTC Bremerton team in our COVID-19 response.”

“Dr. Frederick has been working tirelessly as our key subject matter expert during several public health emergencies, ranging from Mumps ‘outbreaks,’ to concerns with base housing, and now as we fight this battle against COVID-19,” shared Navy Capt. Shannon Johnson, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer. “He helped devise a Fleet specific communication strategy which was later adopted by BUMED as a leading practice related to the COVID-19 response.”

For Frederick, the novel coronavirus outbreak of COVID-19 is the third significant public health event since he began at NHB/NMRTC Bremerton in 2005 – the others being the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 and the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Knowing that viruses don’t adhere to geo-political boundaries, Frederick has continued to coordinate with civilian counterparts at the city, county and state levels; including the state's Northwest Healthcare Response Network and the Washington State Hospital Association; to develop a crisis standard of care flow path, which improves closer coordination in triage and send patients to available beds.

“The importance of the working relationship between us and the local public health experts cannot be overstated,” stressed Frederick. “Our preventive medicine team here also works closely with Dr. Susan Turner, health officer for Kitsap Public Health District, and her staff when it comes to contact tracing of COVID-19 cases. This will continue to be critical in the coming months as the efficiency of rapid contact tracing will be a major determinant in the success of preventing a resurgence of cases.”

“He has done an amazing job of ensuring close communication during especially busy times such as during the mumps clusters and COVID issues,” explained Turner.

“Really, for the last several months, the planning and mitigation efforts that Frederick has capably managed have been a tremendous service to the community. His high level of knowledge and proficiency has magnified our ability to care for our Fleet Sailors and Fleet Marine force, and our dependents, and also to support our community colleagues,” remarked Johnson.

In his role as a Navy public health expert, Frederick contributes to the overall health and safety of the military and the public by ensuring recognition, prevention, and resolution of a wide variety of public health concerns.

“These public health events are fluid and can be overwhelming with the amount of information passed in the media,” commented Uniszkiewicz, heading up NMRTC Bremerton’s COVID-19 working group. “Our subject matter experts, both military and civilian, are at the ‘tip of the spear’ as they sort through the information coming from many different directions in order to ensure that the most appropriate guidance is being passed in an effort to keep our Navy family well informed and safe as possible.”

“There have certainly been a lot of lesson learned. What’s been most challenging is staying ahead of the true COVID-19 information. In this amazing time of our information age courtesy of the internet, it’s actually not uncommon for people - both fellow medical and non-medical - to see or hear of new information before we do. But that can be a double edge sword because it’s also not unheard of for us to have to spend a fair amount of time on researching some of this information only to find out that it was either misunderstood or misleading,” said Frederick.

Throughout the current pandemic, Frederick continues to be recognized as “a military medical professional who demonstrated exemplary care and gone above and beyond their normal call of duty.”

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