Commander of Navy Medicine West visits Chattanooga

Commander of Navy Medicine West visits Chattanooga

June 13th, 2018 by Elizabeth Fite in Local Regional News

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Paul Pearigen poses for a portrait in the Times Free Press studio on Tuesday, June 12, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Rear Adm. Pearigen, a Memphis native and University of the South graduate, earned his medical degree from Vanderbilt University in 1987.

Photo by Doug Strickland /Times Free Press.

Navy Week events

› WEDNESDAY

5-6 p.m.: The U.S. Fleet Forces Band’s ceremonial band ensemble will perform a one-hour concert at the Riverbend Festival main entrance.

8:30 p.m.: The U.S. Navy will participate in the Military Appreciation Night festivities on the Coke Stage at Riverbend Festival.

› THURSDAY

10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal and Diver personnel will perform a dive at the Tennessee Aquarium.

5-6 p.m.: The U.S. Fleet Forces Band’s ceremonial band ensemble will perform a one-hour concert at the Riverbend Festival main entrance.

5:30-8:30 p.m.: The Creative Discovery Museum will host a Navy Night as part of their Free Family Night. The U.S. Navy will have a variety of displays and sailors from around the world, showcasing the service’s capabilities as the real-world application of STEM. Participating groups include USS Constitution Sailors, Navy Oceanography and Meteorology Command, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Teams and Navy divers.

› FRIDAY

5-6 p.m.: The U.S. Fleet Forces Band’s brass band ensemble will perform a one hour concert on the Riverbend Festival Unum Stage.

› SATURDAY

12:30-1:30 p.m.: The U.S. Fleet Forces Band’s brass band ensemble will perform a one-hour concert at the River Market at the TN Aquarium.

5-6 p.m.: The U.S. Fleet Forces Band’s brass band ensemble will perform a one hour concert on the Riverbend Festival Unum Stage.

› SUNDAY, JUNE 17

5-6 p.m.: The U.S. Fleet Forces Band’s ceremonial band ensemble will perform a one-hour concert at the Riverbend Festival main entrance.

Source: U.S. Navy

 

Rear Adm. Paul Pearigen, commander of Navy Medicine West, has returned to his Tennessee roots to meet with local leaders and share stories of Navy Medicine's work during Chattanooga Navy Week events.

The Memphis native who's now based in San Diego graduated from Sewanee: The University of the South in 1983 and received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University in 1987 before ascending through the Navy's ranks.

It's important for Navy representatives to visit inland cities like Chattanooga that have less naval presence so citizens and sailors can interact and give thanks to each other, Pearigen said, adding that people may not know the many roles of the Navy.

"Our mission is about manning, training and equipping our Navy in order to fight if we need to, but we do an awful lot of other good stuff for the nation and for the world," he said.

Pearigen directs Navy Medicine's health care system in the Pacific, which provides medical care to more than 850,000 beneficiaries. He also oversees Navy Medicine's research and development activities worldwide. One facet of that research includes identifying, tracking and finding ways to combat emerging infectious diseases such as Zika and Ebola viruses.

"We do a lot of research and surveillance in those kinds of infections that our sailors and Marines may not have encountered growing up, but if they go to another part of the world they need to be ready to fight," he said. "We still lose far more people off of the battlefield from disease and non-battle injury than actual battle injury."

He's especially excited about the Navy's contribution toward developing a malaria vaccine, which he said should be ready in the not-too-distant future.

Navy Medicine must also grapple with widespread health crises like the opioid epidemic and antibiotic resistance, Pearigen said.

"The military community is not immune from the opioid crisis," he said. "We care for active duty, we care for family members and we care for retirees, and the exposure to and development of dependence on opioids can affect any of those."

Aside from learning new best practices for its long-standing substance abuse rehabilitation programs, Navy Medicine has changed prescribing patterns and recently issued a new policy on long-term opioid use for chronic pain management.

"It's a holistic, team approach — not just responding by giving out a prescription for a 30-day supply of an opiate with five refills," he said, but the looming threat on his mind is drug resistance.

"We're all in this together," Pearigen said. "When we find ourselves in sort of drought periods of new antibiotic agents, that's one of the things that really scares me."

Pearigen will continue his tour through Chattanooga with stops at Erlanger hospital, Rotary Club and Riverbend festival.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673.