Posted By: John P. Howe, III, M.D. on September 28, 2012

Labels: , Volunteers

HOPE staff tours the USNS Comfort in dock in Baltimore.

It was a beautiful morning to tour the USNS Comfort as she floated at rest in her home berth at Baltimore harbor yesterday. Her welcoming white bulk, with large red crosses painted on her superstructure and bows, hinted at the hope she brings to people needing medical care, as she steams into port in developing nations all over the world.

With about 50 members of my staff from Millwood, Virginia and several from Health Affairs the health policy journal published by Project HOPE, we boarded the Comfort and toured her labyrinthine gangways and wards, as guests of the U.S. Navy.

Dr. Howe and Captain Rachel Haltner onboard the USNS Comfort docked in Baltimore.

We were warmly greeted by Captain Rachel Haltner, Executive Officer, Medical Treatment Facility, USNS Comfort and a team of Navy officers who spent several hours teaching us about the ship's unparalleled capacity to provide treatment and care overseas.

The capabilities the 1000-bed ship are impressive -- 12 operating rooms, a CT scanner, an oxygen production facility, 5,000 unit blood storage systems and more. 

Operating under the leadership of the Military Sealift Command and, ultimately, Fleet Forces Command, the USNS Comfort is able to provide mobile surgical and medical services when deployed for humanitarian civic assistance or disaster response missions.

I am immensely proud of HOPE’s partnership with the U.S. Navy. Together we have conducted 24 humanitarian missions since 2005, caring for over 800,000 patients, performing over 10,000 surgeries and training more than 200,000 health care workers and individuals.

Our collaboration on the Continuing Promise mission last year when the Comfort visited nine countries in Latin America and the Caribbean produced invaluable health benefits to communities in need.   

“I can’t thank you enough for what you do for us,” Captain Haltner told us as we gathered in the galley of the 890 foot long ship.   

I was proud to stand with members of the HOPE family on the Comfort and present Captain Haltner and her crew with a HOPE flag – a symbol of our treasured friendship with the Navy.  

I was equally thankful for the great efforts of HOPE staff to support the medical volunteers who work tirelessly alongside the men and women who serve on the Comfort to address the medical needs of many.

The sun was still shining when we left the Comfort, our national treasure, at the Baltimore Harbor, and planning is already underway for the Navy’s next humanitarian mission with Project HOPE to Latin America next summer.

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