ISS1 2018

Reservist Magazine is the award-winning official publication of the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Quarterly issues include news and feature articles about the men and women who comprise America's premier national maritime safety and security

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Page 40 of 59

In pursuit of freedom, Valles- Bravo had to leave behind his pursuit of a career in medicine, and because of his defection, he would be prevented from re- entering his home country for eight years. In the U.S., he moved to Hampton Roads, Va., and began working as a substitute teacher, but his passion for his craft simmered under the surface. He decided to see if he could scratch the itch a little, as well as get help with becoming a citizen of the U.S. He visited his local recruiters. There, he met Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Blaine Meserve- Nibley. "I wanted to make sure he understood the commitment he was making," said Meserve-Nibley, a Reserve recruiter at the time. "I said as [a health services technician (HS)] you won't have the same responsibilities as what you had as a doctor in Cuba and Venezuela, and we went over the roles of a junior HS." The recruiter remembered that Valles-Bravo put out a hand and said, "Blaine, I get it, it's okay." He understood he wouldn't be a doctor in the Coast Guard, but he wanted to serve. After completing a three-week basic training program at Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N. J., Valles-Bravo started a 23-week-long A-school in Coast Guard Training Center Petaluma, Calif., in summer 2017. The course instructors noted a man who was quiet and definitely over qualified for their course. Pulling the doctor back from his mindset of addressing the problem, given his knowledge and background, proved to be a challenge. Chief Petty Officer Elias Gomez, the Health Services Technician A-School Course Chief, has spent 15 years as an HS. He said the instructors worked with Valles-Bravo to help him trust their resources and learn the steps of being a medical assistant. He knew they would be testing the doctor on jobs that, in the past, he'd have assigned to someone in the clinic. "But we face those challenges all the time," said Gomez, noting that while Valles-Bravo is one of the more qualified students to come through the course, the Coast Guard often brings in people with medical backgrounds: nurses, paramedics, aides, therapists and many with degrees and certifications from every state. They all bring with them their own ways of doing medical techniques. It's a task the course chief is ready for. "You can't overthink it," said Gomez. "We've encountered those barriers before, but the instructors are there to ensure [the students'] success." It isn't always easy to bring all that talent under one standard, but, because subsequent C-schools build on standardized A-school training, all students, regardless of background, need to adhere to the Coast Guard's approach. Valles-Bravo was no exception. "The instructors were very knowledgeable; they always tried to push everyone to be more prepared for the outside," he said. "Sometimes it was a little frustrating because I knew these things, but I looked at it as a refresher." His mentor during the class was another instructor, Petty Officer 1st Class Roy Mesen Scott, an HS with 18 years of experience. Mesen Scott, who was born in Costa Rica, shared an important bond with Valles-Bravo -- the two men had both learned English as their second language. Mesen Scott laughed, remembering how sometimes Valles- Bravo couldn't think of the words for a technique in English, and they'd discuss in Spanish for a while, but even in Spanish, sometimes the doctor's medical knowledge was above Mesen Scott's skillset. He worked with Valles-Bravo to help him stop jumping ahead in the process – a difficulty for a doctor who's used to doing emergency medicine where he wasn't afforded the luxury of time. "I knew his knowledge was there. He understood the nuances of the patient-provider conversation, like alcohol usage, exercise, and smoking. We [HSs] have 19 steps from, 'What brings you in?' to 'Do you have a family history of diabetes, cancer…,'" said Mesen Scott, "but for him, when he asks those questions, you can tell he's got more knowledge, [and] he'll go further than he needs to because of his experience. He … puts the answers and conditions together in a way that we didn't think of." After months of school, Valles-Bravo graduated and reported to his new unit, the clinic at Coast Guard Base Portsmouth. He said the experience of A-school was both humbling and a good refresher. Not surprising, his favorite part was the first few weeks, in which the HS students ride along with the TRACEN paramedics on emergency calls. Assisted by fellow Coast Guardsmen from TRACEN Petaluma, he's actively working on getting his transcripts from medical school in Cuba. "I miss it every day, but I've made my peace with it," he said. "I'm working hard to make my goal of practicing again come true. If everything goes well, I can be taking the boards this year." � a ngel Valles-Bravo during blood draw training at HS " a " School. Photo courtesy of a ngel Valles-Bravo. Issue 1 • 2018 � RESERVIST 39

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