PHS, Army veterinarians at the ready during Inauguration

Published on March 15, 2005
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The veterinary profession was on site with public health and security-related expertise for the Jan. 20 presidential Inauguration, the largest gathering of law enforcement personnel in the history of the nation's capital, and the first inauguration since Sept. 11.

Just as with the Republican National Convention and G8 Summit last year, and the State of the Union later this January, uniformed veterinarians were part of the readiness force at the Inaugural events.

Veterinarians from the U.S. Public Health Service and the Army provided services essential to public health and security on Inauguration Day and during the weeklong festivities leading up to it.

The Department of Homeland Security designated the Inauguration as a National Special Security Event, which mandates the Secret Service as the lead federal agency in charge of designing and implementing the operational security plan.

U.S. Public Health Service

Veterinarians are part of a multidisciplinary readiness force maintained by the PHS. For the Inauguration, PHS Commissioned Corps veterinarians provided health and injury surveillance and assessment. Secondarily, they were available to help the medical teams at 50 aid tents on the National Mall.  

Commander Hugh Mainzer is one of a number of PHS veterinarians who are cross-trained in population health and as paramedics or who, in the course of their regular work, are involved in disaster response. He is a commander in the PHS and senior preventive medicine officer and medical epidemiologist at the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He was part of a medical strike team that was activated by the U.S. surgeon general for the Inauguration.

"Our mission was to use our veterinary skills in human population medicine," Cmdr. Mainzer said. "Because of our veterinary training, we're often called on to coordinate or lead."

Stationed on the Pentagon side of the Potomac River, he was briefed by members of the Weapons of Mass Destruction response element. Were a mass casualty emergency to arise, they were poised to respond. Fortunately, nothing of that nature occurred.

Commander Joseph Mat Schech of the PHS is a research animal facility veterinarian with the National Institutes of Health. He was the communications officer for a medical tent on the Mall. Some 300 visits were made to tents for various conditions ranging from frostbite to injuries resulting from acts of civil disobedience.

"One basic reason we were there was in case of some sort of bioterrorism or conventional terrorism event," Cmdr. Schech said. "In the first aid stations, the veterinarians were there providing a support role for the human health care providers."

Public Health Service veterinarians can work with the NIH, CDC, Food and Drug Administration, and now, the Department of Agriculture. Commander Yvette Davis (FDA), Cmdr. Katherine Hollinger (FDA), Cmdr. Marianne Ross (FDA), and Lt. Cmdr. Regina Tan (USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service)—all PHS veterinarians—provided support at the Inauguration.

Also on site was Cmdr. Clara J. Witt, a PHS veterinarian detailed to the Department of Defense's Global Emerging Infectious Surveillance Systems, which focuses on the health of the U.S. military force.

"We were all worried about the possibility of a bioterrorist event," Dr. Witt said. "We looked for unusual sights, (signs in) animals, and chemical smells in the air. Part of surveillance was to see what kind of injuries they were seeing at the tents.

"Veterinarians are good at a variety of health-related activities, so they act as liaison between the PHS and (District of Columbia) Department of Health secretary's operation center and the deployed veterinarians responsible for emergency services." 

Army Veterinary Corps

Army veterinarians served two missions—canine and equine support. 

Three veterinarians and three animal care specialists from the National Capital District Veterinary Command cared for some 150 working dogs. From Jan. 16-21, two teams provided 24-hour coverage. The third was a roving team, based at the vice president's residence at the Naval Observatory.

According to Capt. Charlie Marchand, most of the dogs were explosives detectors. The dogs were owned by various agencies, including the federal government, military branches, Transportation Security Administration, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, and National Capital Region Police.

One permanent aid station and triage site was established. Lt. Col. Nancy Vincent-Johnson and Capt. Catherine McManus helped staff the aid stations, and Capt. William Wilkins was on the roving team. Their commander was Dr. Kenneth Bartels, an Oklahoma State University professor and reservist who is currently deployed by the Army as interim commander for the Northeast Atlantic Regional Veterinary Command. Except for a few cases of localized dermatitis from prolonged contact with road salt, the dogs' veterinary needs were routine.

One veterinarian and two 91 Tango animal care specialists from the NCDVC provided support for the 267 horses in the Inaugural Parade. Equine practitioner and reservist, Lt. Col. John Stott, contributed in a civilian capacity. They were also responsible for the search-and-rescue dogs in the parade. Fort Myer in Virginia housed the Army caisson horses and cavalry horses, and the others were boarded at the Prince George County Equestrian Center in Maryland.

Parade veterinarian, Capt. Lisa Amoroso, said the equine support team conducted physicals Jan. 19 on all 267 horses to make sure they were fit to complete the parade. The team also planned for any veterinary care that might be required along the parade route and for the rescue of any animal that might have to be pulled from the parade. Captain Amoroso is the veterinary officer-in-charge at Fort Myer, where she cares for the caisson horses.