The Major General of US army Gale Pollock was inspired to become a nurse after she saw how the military treated her elder brother after he was wounded in Vietnam. Thirty years down the line, she heads the US Army Nurse Corps.
"I decided to join the army when I was a teenager. I had a big brother who was injured in Vietnam and the army medical department took very good care of him. So I decided I was going to be a nurse so I could help someone else's big brother," said Pollock.
"It's been wonderful. I really think choosing to join the army was the best decision of my life," Pollock told IANS on the sidelines of the just-concluded 16th Asia-Pacific Military Medicine Conference in N.Delhi.
"They have provided me wonderful opportunities - my education, opportunities to serve around the world," added the Honolulu-based Pollock who is one of the 14 star-ranked officers in the 490,000-strong US Army.
One of the proudest days of her life undoubtedly was July 26, 2004 when she jumped two ranks from colonel to major general in a single day as a result of a 2003 US law requiring that a two-star officer head the Army Nurse Corps.
Pollock was selected for the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing (WRAIN) scholarship programme and received a bachelor's of science in nursing from the University of Maryland, and a direct commission in the Army Nurse Corps in 1976.
She has attended the US Army Nurse Anesthesia Programme and is a Certified Registered Nurse Anaesthetist (CRNA), and a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives (FACHE).
She received her master's in Business Administration from Boston University, a masters in Healthcare Administration from Baylor University and a master's in National Security and Strategy from the National Defense University.
"I keep busy. I love what I do. I love taking care of the service members and their families. And then, there's the opportunity to work with people who are very committed to helping people," Pollock maintained.
"We medical people enter healthcare because we care about other people - to join in an environment like this with people from other countries with the same values: we want to care for people, we want people to be well, we want people to get along. It's wonderful to be in this environment," she said.
It's this very philosophy that Pollock brought to the military medicine conference, which is held in a different Asia-Pacific country every year and co-hosted by the Honolulu-based US Pacific Command.
"It is very important for all the countries in the Asia-Pacific region to understand one and another better, to begin to work together better because it is such a large geographic region and it is home to the majority of natural disasters," she explained.
"It made sense that the US play the guiding hand, to lead people into working together better," Pollock said, adding: "So, over the years, we have looked at the medical issues that are important to those regions."
Much of the work has been on dengue fever, anti-malarial treatments, HIV/AIDS.
"As we learnt how to work better, the countries (of the region) felt they needed more support than they could provide, they would know where to look to."
This became apparent in the wake of the Dec 26, 2004 tsunami that claimed nearly 230,000 lives.
"We certainly found that to be true after the tsunami when the entire region came together to try and support the different countries. Because of the relationships we had, governments were able to say what exactly they wanted," Pollock pointed out.
"Now, over time, some of the people have come multiple times to the conferences. So they know each other well. It is really renewing and strengthening friendships when we get together," she maintained.