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RLSH Nurse Heading to Asia to Help Tsunami Victims

Jan. 25, 2005- A certified emergency room nurse at the Roy L. Schneider Hospital and Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center will help the victims of the tsunami disaster by volunteering a month of her time to take part in the humanitarian relief effort.
Roxanne Kunkel, RN, MPH, Clinical Care Coordinator at the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center, will leave this week on a U.S. naval ship to the island of Sri Lanka. A release from the hospital said the humanitarian organization called Project HOPE is leading the mission to aid the survivors of the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami. The disaster left more than 220,000 people dead and tens of thousands of people without access to basic medical care and medical supplies, the release said.
Kunkel, who earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing at the University of Wisconsin and her Master's degree in Public Health at the University of Illinois, came to the RLSH permanently as an Emergency Room nurse in 2000, after working as a traveling nurse in St. Thomas in 1997-98. She has been in charge of the nursing staff at Myrah Keating for the past four months. She is using her own time in working on this project.
"I found out about this opportunity through the Emergency Nurses Association, which put out a general call to its members for volunteers shortly after the tsunami disaster," Kunkel said. "When it first happened, I felt I wanted to go right then."
Project HOPE is involved in humanitarian assistance by providing pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to a number of countries. In this effort, about 200 health professionals over two rotations will volunteer a month of their lives treat survivors of the south Asia tsunamis. The ship, the USNS Mercy, is expected to arrive in the region in early February.
Before boarding the ship, Kunkel will fly to Baltimore for a two-day training session. She expects that her emergency room skills will be much in demand in the tsunami-stricken region.
"Although the dysentery rates are lower now, there has been an outbreak of dengue and malaria recently, as well as incidents of tetanus and measles," Kunkel said. "Since a large number of hospitals and clinics in the region were destroyed, the ship is needed because it is a fully-functioning, 1,000-bed floating hospital. "I know it will be a sad situation, but I also think I'll gain a lot from this experience as a person," she said.
Rodney E. Miller Sr., president and chief operating officer of the hospital, praised Kunkel's commitment to serve the less fortunate.
"Roxanne is a role model for many healthcare professionals," Miller said. "While we are going to miss and need her while she's gone, her skills as an emergency room nurse providing care to a variety of critically ill and emergency patients will be in demand on this very important mission."

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