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LEAP Spotlight: SMSgt Selma Stinson

Photo Courtesy of SMSgt Selma Stinson

Photo Courtesy of SMSgt Selma Stinson

MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Ala. --

Earlier this year, Language Enabled Airman Program (LEAP) scholar SMSgt Selma Stinson was awarded the Navy Achievement Medal, along with LEAP scholar TSgt Ana Cruz, for their Spanish language support on the USNS Comfort in Santa Marta, Colombia, in November 2019. Through this Training Partnership Request (TPR), they directly contributed to the treatment of more than 7,400 patients, 138 surgeries, 1,400 vaccinations, and 866 dental patients. Additionally, they flawlessly delivered five public health conferences in Spanish, increasing the preventative health awareness of 70 Colombian military, government, and local medical personnel. She is currently based at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, and has been on the front lines of the COVID pandemic since its outbreak.

“San Antonio has a big Hispanic population, and I speak Spanish. So, every time the base needs me to do briefings in the community, translate, interpret, or do anything in San Antonio or the wing, I’m in charge of that. I work in the medical wing, so we’ve stayed pretty busy,” Stinson said. “We’ve been doing a lot of surveillance and drive-thru COVID testing. We also set up a drive-thru pharmacy so that people can get their prescriptions safely. We still have the basic training mission we’re supporting, but we’re helping with triage, pre-screening, and temperature checks before anyone can enter the buildings.

“When COVID first started, it was a little difficult for us because of our procedures in dentistry. Because of air droplets [possibly carrying the Coronavirus], we scaled down and then stopped all procedures we were doing except emergencies. We were doing everything outside of dental procedures until about June, when COVID cases in our area began to slow down. It seemed like they were getting under control. Now we are back to doing our procedures, but there’s a national shortage of personal protection equipment. It was scary at the beginning of the pandemic because no one knew what was going on or what to expect. No treatment worked, so the first thing we did was stop our normal operations until we could get some clarification from the Air Force and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). We wanted to follow infection control guidelines, but we didn’t have any specific guidance for a pandemic like this back then. That’s different now. We have guidance and instructions, and if you’re here in San Antonio, you have to follow the rules! They won’t even let you into any stores if you don’t have your mask on!

“We treat everyone here – active duty, basic trainees, and retirees. We have the biggest dental training residency in the Air Force here, so all the residents come here to get trained in their specialties. We’re going to start doing surveillance within the 59th Dental Group with patients so the dentists will get trained to do their own swabbing. We have one of the labs approved by the FDA to make the swabs, and we just sent 3,500 swabs to the Coast Guard. We also make medical face shields. This is also one of the bases doing the trials for the vaccines. Everyone’s working nonstop between doing our regular jobs and trying to support the mission for COVID – it’s a lot. We’re truly doing all that we can here to help stem the pandemic.”