Above: Finney outside the the "pharmacy tent" (left) of the Monrovia Medical Unit
Now an Air Force major, COP alumnus Zach Finney recently returned from a mission to Liberia to support the international response to the Ebola outbreak there.
The 2008 PharmD graduate describes the dire situation he saw in the African country.
“The level of poverty is almost unimaginable to someone who has never seen it for themselves. Compound the poverty with a country that has only recently returned from a devastating civil war and you can quickly see how important this mission was. For me specifically, it has … validated to myself that I am right where I want to be, a clinical pharmacist in the USAF.”
Above: Zach Finney
Finney’s educational experience paved the way for his current career. During his time at the UA College of Pharmacy, he was an Air Force Health Professions Scholarship Program recipient. After graduation, he was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico for three years. After that, he was accepted into a PGY1 residency program at San Antonio Military Medical Center for one year, then transferred to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia as Chief, Inpatient Pharmacy Services. He has since completed board certification (BCPS) and his current title is Chief, Clinical Pharmacy Services at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.
While assigned at Langley AFB, Finney joined a Global Reaction Force (GRF) team made up of doctors, nurses, a pharmacist, a dentist, medical technicians, logisticians and biomedical technicians.
“The GRF team,” he explains, “is trained and capable of deploying as an Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS) unit that rapidly provides forward stabilization, primary care, dental services, force health protection and prepares expeditionary and civilian casualties for aeromedical evacuation.”
In late September 2014, on 72 hours’ notice, the team of 34 airmen deployed with 38 aircraft pallets of supplies and equipment – a complete hospital package. Within 72 hours of having the site prepared, they supplied a fully operational BLU-MED field hospital, including 12 tents and a 25-bed inpatient capability, for the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS).
Above: The Monrovia Medical Unit delivered by the 633rd Langley Air Force Base Global Reaction Force Team
The team set up the hospital, prepared it for use and trained the USPHS in its operation and equipment. The hospital was established to treat the international healthcare workers who are volunteering to help curb the Ebola outbreak. Finney’s role was to anticipate pharmaceutical needs to prepare for patient care and establish resupply chains with the team’s logisticians.
Above: Finney leads the populating and organizing of the pharmacy (before)
Above: Final pharmacy view before hand-off to the USPHS (after)
According to Finney, who returned from Liberia in mid-October, “This experience was an amazing opportunity to be on the front lines of history and be given the chance to showcase what Expeditionary Military Medicine is capable of. Additionally, it was a humbling experience to represent pharmacy and be a part of this international response.”
Many prominent individuals in the fight against Ebola came to witness the team’s mission and see the hospital firsthand, including Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (president of Liberia), Deborah Malac (United States ambassador to Liberia), Major General Darryl Williams (commander, U.S. Army Africa), Dr. Rajiv Shah (USAID administrator), Rear Admiral Scott Giberson (acting deputy surgeon general) and representatives from Doctors Without Borders and the World Health Organization.
Reflecting on his experience with this mission, Finney states, “I am extremely honored and grateful to have had the opportunity to be on the front end of this humanitarian response… I wanted to be a part of something that is bigger than me and brings multiple disciplines together for the benefit of the patient. Our small part was an important step in the fight against Ebola.”
Above: A United Nations plane takes off from Robert International Airport Monrovia, Liberia
Story by Elizabeth Harris, communications assistant.
Photos by MSgt Will Villalobos, NCOIC Logistical Inventory Management, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia.