DNP Student, Air Force Veteran Provides Hurricane Relief in Puerto Rico and Texas

NOVEMBER 29, 2017 — Scott Schmidt (G’19), FNP, RN, is a student in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

Schmidt is a distinguished graduate from Officer Training School and a recipient of the Air Force Commendation Medal. Recently, he transitioned from active duty in the U.S. Air Force to civilian life and helped provide hurricane relief in Puerto Rico and Texas.

“I thank my wife, Julia, my classmates, and the educators at Georgetown for enabling my ability to live the school’s mission of ‘advancing the health and well-being of individuals and communities,’” he says of the experience. “Jesuit values were replete in my experience, including social justice, cura personalis, value of the common good, and contemplation in action.”

Below, Schmidt shares some thoughts about his military background, volunteer service, and time at Georgetown.   

Question: Tell us a little bit about your service in the U.S. Air Force.

Schmidt: I recently separated from the U.S. Air Force in October of this year. I was stationed in Colorado, where I spent time serving as a medical officer at Fort Carson, Buckley Air Force Base, and the United States Air Force Academy.  I was a disaster team chief at the academy, and I worked at all of the aforementioned locations providing psychiatric care to Department of Defense beneficiaries, including active duty service members, retirees, and their dependents.  

Question: When did you become a nurse and what drew you to Georgetown's DNP Program.

Schmidt: I’ve spent my entire career as a nurse practitioner in the Air Force, but recently accepted a faculty position at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, where I will be working at the Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado.  I always knew that I wanted to work at a cutting-edge academic medical center as clinical faculty, and I found that the DNP Program at Georgetown was a perfect fit to realize my goals.  

From my first meeting with the faculty, there was a palpable sense that this was a special program with outstanding leadership. My classmates are exceptionally talented and bring with them experience from very diverse backgrounds, which only further enriches the learning environment.

Question: How did you get involved in hurricane relief efforts, and what were the main projects you worked on?

Schmidt: After separating from the military, I had downtime while I waited to be granted a license to practice in Colorado and complete the credentialing process at Children’s Hospital Colorado.  As a former military officer and collegiate athlete, I always took pride in the Latin phrase “labor ipse voluptas,” which roughly means “the pleasure is in the work itself.”  The downtime was grueling, and then Hurricane Harvey happened.  

I had been a volunteer with a disaster organization founded by veterans, and I reached out to see if I could help in Houston: I was on a plane in less than 24 hours. Working with small teams, each morning we would head out to houses damaged by the hurricane, primarily doing demolition work and mold mitigation.

Nearing the completion of my deployment in Texas, my friend Nick—a veteran Navy corpsman—and I were asked if we would head straight from Houston to western Puerto Rico to provide medical relief through the organization Team Rubicon. With only a backpack, a sleeping bag, and some medical supplies, I departed Houston for San Sebastián.

There, I met a group of 33 extraordinary individuals. We slept in an abandoned dialysis clinic and washed our clothes every few days in the Caribbean Sea. The days started early and ended late, where we split up into medical ‘strike teams’ of four or five individuals. The operation, ‘Coqui Calling,’ which is named after the Coqui frog common to Puerto Rico, provided care to over 1,000 individuals in the short time we were there, some of whom were in critical condition.

Both the people of Wharton County in Texas and in the San Sebastian region of Puerto Rico showed remarkable resilience in spite of their devastating losses. In my lifetime, I hope to be half as strong as they are.

Question: What do you hope to do with your doctoral degree?

Schmidt: With my doctoral degree from Georgetown, I plan to broaden my skills in pedagogy and continue to care for those in need.