Veterans serve on the home front in COVID-19 battle

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For Air Force veteran Dr. James Johnson, battling COVID-19 in New York and New Jersey was like being on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Texas-based anesthesiologist and senior vice president for the central operating group at Envision Physician Services deployed to New York in March, just as the state was seeing massive daily increases in its number of positive COVID cases.

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“I think for me, having done this as active duty military and as a civilian, it’s serving the greater good,” he said. “This experience was no different.”

Johnson said the idea to mobilize anesthesiology resources to help the COVID-19 efforts in New York came to the company early on.

Like Johnson, many of those who answered the call had logistical and clinical experience in managing mass casualty situations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as responding to natural disasters such as hurricanes. 

“The mission had to be accomplished,” he said.

Within 48 hours of deciding to ship out, Johnson and three others from Texas were on the ground in New York providing care at Mount Sinai Brooklyn Hospital. 

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“Where we were, I can not identify a single instance where we didn’t have the supplies we needed,” he said.

Johnson said he managed both logistics and the ventilators of COVID-19 patients. He was in New York for four weeks. 

“One of the unique things about our organization is our operational leaders are physicians and we understand what physicians go through,” he said.

The medical group also established an emotional wellness program for its employees who served in New York that helped them process what they experienced. 

“The opportunity to serve creates a bond that won’t be broken,” Johnson said.

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