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Public Health Experts handling the Public Health Crisis

13 April 2021

From Douglas Stutz, Naval Hospital Bremerton/Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Command Bremerton Public Affairs

BREMERTON, Wash. - The day after Navy Medicine Readiness Training Command (NMRTC) Bremerton received an initial shipment of Moderna COVID vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020, doses were being administered to anxious staff members.

Info sharing the ‘public’ part of Public Health…Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton Public Health Emergency Officer and Resident COVID czar, responds to interview questions from Kitsap SUN military report Josh Farley during the initial administration of the COVID vaccine Dec. 23, 2020. Along with Uniszkiewicz, other public health experts such as Cmdr. Bryan Wooldridge, Lt. Cmdr. Mia Jin and especially Dr. Dan Frederick have led the command effort in helping stop the spread of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic
Info sharing the ‘public’ part of Public Health…Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton Public Health Emergency Officer and Resident COVID czar, responds to interview questions from Kitsap SUN military report Josh Farley during the initial administration of the COVID vaccine Dec. 23, 2020. Along with Uniszkiewicz, other public health experts such as Cmdr. Bryan Wooldridge, Lt. Cmdr. Mia Jin and especially Dr. Dan Frederick have led the command effort in helping stop the spread of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic
Info sharing the ‘public’ part of Public Health…Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton Public Health Emergency Officer and Resident COVID czar, responds to interview questions from Kitsap SUN military report Josh Farley during the initial administration of the COVID vaccine Dec. 23, 2020. Along with Uniszkiewicz, other public health experts such as Cmdr. Bryan Wooldridge, Lt. Cmdr. Mia Jin and especially Dr. Dan Frederick have led the command effort in helping stop the spread of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic
201223-N-RG482-000
Info sharing the ‘public’ part of Public Health…Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton Public Health Emergency Officer and Resident COVID czar, responds to interview questions from Kitsap SUN military report Josh Farley during the initial administration of the COVID vaccine Dec. 23, 2020. Along with Uniszkiewicz, other public health experts such as Cmdr. Bryan Wooldridge, Lt. Cmdr. Mia Jin and especially Dr. Dan Frederick have led the command effort in helping stop the spread of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic
Photo By: Chief Petty Officer Kyle Steckler
VIRIN: 201223-N-RG482-000
Perhaps no others were more relieved, encouraged, and appreciative than the command public health emergency officers present for the occasion.

Using a football analogy, Dr. Dan Frederick, NMRTC Bremerton public health emergency officer (PHEO) remarked, “for ten month we’ve been playing defense against this virus. Now it feels like we’re finally on the offense.”

Leveling the playing field in an advantageous position was what Frederick and other public health experts do.

Well before the persistent eternity of the ongoing pandemic, public health experts - military and civilian – tended to be vital yet relatively unassuming contributors to overall health and wellness.

This was how Frederick described his PHEO role, even including during National Public Health Week, April 4-11, 2021.

Yet over the past year, those same PHEOs like Frederick have become front and center in helping their command, communities, and country stop the spread of COVID-19.

Frederick, like other Defense Health Agency PHEOs, was closely monitoring unfolding developments concerning the new coronavirus that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization initially detected December, 2019, in Wuhan, China.

“It was thought that the original infections were transmitted to people from animals. But the most common transmission of the virus was from human to human. In other words, it spread like many other respiratory viruses, from the respiratory droplets of an infected person by coughing and sneezing to the respiratory tract of a non-infected person by inhaling or by touch of secretions to eyes and nose,” said Frederick, who steadily kept command leadership informed with updates of the virus.

Frederick’s awareness to closely monitor the on-going new illness was prescient. One of the early confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. by the CDC was in the greater Puget Sound area with a Snohomish County resident returning from the Wuhan, China region.

Any potential threat of the viral respiratory illness might have seemed like miles from NHB, but similar to carefully observing the measles outbreak in southern Washington State the previous year, Frederick and command officials were again acutely aware that being forewarned is forearmed.

“The concern was how contagious with human to human transmission,” remembered Frederick.

Frederick echoed the CDC assessment that what made COVID-19 so important to track was it is new and something not seen before.

“The reason that 2019-nCoV received the attention of the entire public health community is because, as its name implies, it is novel. This means it is a new virus to humans. This also means that nobody had natural immunity to it and thus people who became infected, became ill. Although there were (also) people who became infected who didn’t know they had symptoms,” noted Frederick.

Frederick, along with other command PHEOs like Cmdr. Robert Uniszkiewicz and Cmdr. Bryan Wooldridge, were much in demand by Navy leadership in the Pacific Northwest to address the many concerns – and unease – of confronting, stopping, and eradicating the virus.

“NHB/NMRTC Bremerton has some of the best, highly trained public health professionals in the region,” said Capt. Rich Rhinehart, Naval Base Kitsap commanding officer.


Along with the extensive and intensive long hours devoted to responding to the virus, Frederick in his public health role also continued to provide consultation and expertise to operating forces and shore command stakeholders across the third largest fleet concentration centered in the Pacific Northwest, helping guide best practices and procedures in disease prevention and health promotion. Some of the key initiatives include environmental health and safety, outbreak response and public health assessment.

Yet eliminating the virus loomed large at every juncture.

The public health emergency caused by the pandemic is still causing widespread health, social, and economic consequences. Frederick continues to assist local military commanders make timely decisions to protect lives, property, and infrastructure, as well as DoD installations to sustain mission-critical operations and essential services.

He also works closely when needed with various municipal partners at varied county and state levels.

“Our public health team here has always leveraged and enjoyed a strong bond with our Kitsap Public Health partners, and by extension to Washington State Department of Health. This is because a public health event, such as coronavirus, does not distinguish between the military and civilian community. It is reassuring to know that their dedicated team of subject matter experts is ready, willing, and only a phone call away to collaborate with us,” Frederick remarked.

His selfless devotion to public health is apparent in his outreach to patients and informing the command on the latest developments within the ever-changing landscape of public health. His ongoing efforts undoubtedly have a direct and substantial impact on our national defense and fleet readiness,” stated Capt. Shannon Johnson, NHB/NMRTC Bremerton commanding officer.

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