Maj. Michael Korcrzykowski, PA-C
“For only a small group of people, we made quite an impact.”
That’s how Vermont National Guardsman Maj. Michael Korczykowski, PA-C summed up his recent deployment as commander of Charlie Company, 186th Brigade Support Battalion. He served as the officer-in-charge of a 21-person detachment dispatched Sept. 16 to the U.S. Virgin Islands. Arriving just days before Hurricane Maria hit, the medical cadre sheltered in place during the storm and was ready to provide medical care to disaster-affected civilians and military personnel in her immediate aftermath.
Korczykowski’s team consisted of a trauma surgeon, five nurses, three PAs and 12 Army medics who staffed the Schneider Regional Medical Center on St. Thomas (a sorely understaffed hospital) and performed sick hall operations aboard the SS Wright, a navy vessel housing first responders. For nearly 30 days, the team treated wounds, administered medication, wrote prescriptions, and performed surgical procedures in emergency and operating rooms. Capt. Beth Carriere, PA-C and her team of medics even aided in the reconstruction of a shelter on St. Johns Island.
The team worked with local, state and federal partners to provide care in areas faced with a sudden surge of medical needs.
“My teams, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, were going door-to-door to check on locals and provide the medical care that they needed,” said Korczykowski. “Many of the locals are living in poor conditions and lack access to medical care. Our mission was to take care of people and do our part in ensuring they’re healthy enough to rebuild and recover from the storms.”
Personnel across FEMA, the American Red Cross, local EMS and other relief organizations all collaborated to assist in the humanitarian effort. Medical support also came from area support medical companies from the Army and medical evacuation teams from the Vermont and Kentucky National Guards.
On Oct. 13, Korczykowski and his team redeployed to Burlington, Vermont, but a medical team from the Pennsylvania National Guard will continue what they started in the islands.
“We’ve been working with them to assure good continuity of care so that they can continue to provide quality medical care and staffing support,” said Korczykowski.
National Guard units have a minimum requirement to train 39 days each year, where they practice and hone skills in preparation for natural and man-made disasters. Through planned exercises, which often include local, state and federal partners, units network various skill sets to complete unified missions and prepare for a range of events.
“In uniform, we learn to ‘train as you fight,’” said Maj. Kathleen Parris, who served as the Virgin Islands National Guard's medical planner during hurricane recovery efforts. “This means all training should be seen as ‘the real thing.’ Therefore, when it happens, we are prepared to act and know how to respond.”
Relief efforts continue in the aftermath of Maria, which indiscriminately damaged communities and disrupted services across the chain of islands. Though medical needs persist, Korczykowski said he is proud to have led a team that brought critical care to communities in need, and he was inspired by the resiliency of people resolved to regain their sense of normalcy.
Korczykowski has worked full-time for the Vermont National Guard for eight years, following a 10-year active duty tour in the Army. He also works per diem in the emergency room at Porter Medical Center in Middlebury, Vermont and at Northwestern Medical Center urgent care facilities in St. Albans, Vermont.