It was early April and Caleena Longworth was involved in what other third year UNLV School of Medicine students were doing, studying for important standardized exams -- one on neurology, another on internal medicine and the third, a nine hour board exam dealing with all subjects that had been covered.
And then came the April 9th phone call from Col. Martin Bain, the State Air Surgeon of the Nevada Air National Guard.
“Col. Bain asked if I would be interested in taking a position as Officer in Charge of a COVID-19 Community Based Collection Center,” said Longworth, who serves as a first lieutenant in the Guard. “The first thing I said was, ‘Yes, I want to, but let me call my Student Affairs Dean and make sure I can do this with my school obligations.’ I called Dr. (Sam) Parrish who was very supportive of me taking the position. I called back right away and accepted the job.”
It’s now just about a month later. Her exams have been put on hold. She’s pulled some 16 hour days and worked weekends while in charge of 45 Guardsmen who’ve augmented UNLV Medicine’s highly successful curbside testing program since April 23rd. Guardsmen have worked in a number of areas, including security, holding up signs to communicate with drivers, delivering specimen samples and by taking phone calls from Nevadans hoping to be tested for the virus.
How well has she done?
Well, Guard commanders now also want her planning and operational expertise on hand for the start up of another testing site in Las Vegas.
To Longworth, medical school and the National Guard complement each other.
“I have the opportunity to merge two parts of my life together -- really, two parts of my identity -- to accomplish a common mission. It allows me to use the leadership skill set I have been developing through my service in the military with what I’ve learned in medical school to help my community during a pandemic. I will not pretend that balancing the National Guard with medical school has been easy. It certainly has not. I fly up to Reno one weekend a month, often the weekend before an exam during my first and second years. There have been times my C-130 flight got canceled or delayed and I had to figure out how I was getting home for clinical rotations the next day. Despite these challenges, being part of the Nevada Air National Guard has always been worth it to me. I love serving my state and my country.”
While the heat in recent days hasn’t been easy to handle, Longworth is proud of the
Guard’s role at the UNLV testing site. “Our team on the National Guard side is 100 percent volunteers. Nobody is forcing them on the mission...while the heat is difficult to work in, with safety and prevention measures in place, they are doing an excellent job.’