Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

MEDDAC officers mentor students

Lt. Col. Erin V. Wilkinson, left, and Lt. Col. Deborah M. Pina-Thomas, both with the Medical Department Activity’s Behavioral Health Department, answer questions Feb. 23 following presentations at Watson Junior High.

Lt. Col. Erin V. Wilkinson, left, and Lt. Col. Deborah M. Pina-Thomas, both with the Medical Department Activity’s Behavioral Health Department, answer questions Feb. 23 following presentations at Watson Junior High.

Story and photo by  Spc. Roxanne M. Nance

Fort Carson Medical Department Activity Public Affairs

Six Fort Carson Medical Department Activity officers spoke Feb. 22-25 at a Widefield junior high school to a group of female students enrolled in a Department of Defense Education Activity-funded initiative.

The students are participating in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education initiative designed to improve America’s military, nonmilitary, community and education systems by increasing the aptitude of youths within the STEM fields of study.

Widefield School District 3 has implemented the STEM program in three of its junior high schools. Laura Garrett, Watson Junior High STEM class teacher, said the reason behind an all-female class was to give voice to an underrepresented presence in these related areas. The girls invited to participate in the STEM program have shown high academic ability, she said. Since the implementation of the STEM class, the students have completed projects that encourage leadership, the development of social and communication skills and team building.

Garrett invited the Army medical officers to speak to the students throughout the week and to provide professional insights as well as encouragement. She wanted the students to consider what they can be when they grow up and the careers they could pursue in the fields of science, technology, engineering, math and medicine within the different branches of the military.

The medical professionals volunteered to share their experiences and to speak about their careers and ambitions.

Maj. Victoria P. Ragan, the MEDDAC training officer, was the first to speak to the class. She described the process she took to become a nurse, going through the ROTC program while in college, and discussed her experiences as a critical care nurse.

“I really encouraged the girls to consider going to college,” Ragan said. “College is hard, but doable.

I personally found the Army as a great way to pay for school.”

Lt. Col Erin V. Wilkinson and Lt. Col. Deborah M. Pina-Thomas, both with MEDDAC’s Behavioral Health Department, focused their presentations on their careers and behavioral health.

Pina-Thomas said she enjoyed speaking with the students. The questions the students asked made her reflect on her time spent in the military. Pina-Thomas said she was happy to share her experiences and knowledge and was proud to represent the Army Nurse Corps.

Other presenters included Capt. Danielle D. Nichols and Claire E. Stowers, who spoke on preventive medicine, and Lt. Col. Tina M. Gosling, Evans Family Medicine Clinic, who covered professional nursing.

The MEDDAC officers described their involvement with these Widefield students as a worthwhile endeavor in encouraging them to become tomorrow’s leaders in science, technology, engineering, math and medicine.

“I hope the girls learn a higher level of problem solving and leadership … most of all, I hope they learn that it is OK to be smart,” Garrett said.

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