Meryl Nass, MD, a medical staff member of MDI Hospital, has been appointed by the Governor to lead a group tasked with improving the standards of medical care for the Maine National Guard.
As Chair of the Commission to Protect the Lives and Health of Members of the Maine National Guard, Dr. Nass will oversee efforts not only to improve standards for Maine Guard members, but to encourage the federal government to adopt these standards.
A nationally renowned expert on bioterrorism, anthrax and vaccine injuries, Dr. Nass has been called to testify before the U.S. House and Senate on these subjects. Dr. Nass currently serves as a Hospitalist, a physician specializing in inpatient care, at MDI Hospital and runs a clinic to treat patients suffering from Gulf War and other multi-symptom syndromes.
In addition to Dr. Nass, the Commission includes the Adjutant General of the Maine National Guard, the Director of the Maine Bureau of Veterans Services, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control, Maine’s Chief Medical Examiner, a representative from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a pharmacist, a psychologist, disabled veterans and a family member of a deceased soldier.
The Commission, which began in 2007, was an outgrowth of advocacy efforts by the mother of a soldier who died in a non-combat incident. Barbara Damon-Day, whose son Patrick died while serving with the National Guard in Afghanistan, lobbied successfully for the creation of the Commission and was its first chair. The Commission was created by statute following a unanimous vote by Maine’s House and Senate.
Since its creation in 2007, the commission has provided a single site for health-related information for Maine veterans on the Maine CDC website, and helped improve Guard members’ ‘Over 40 Physical Exam’ to include cardiovascular screening prior to deployment, medical record handling, and established a case review board for non-combat deaths and disabilities.
“There is a tremendous amount of post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury as a result of the global war on terror,” said Dr. Nass. “We’ve worked to improve awareness of these issues. The Guard has also been more active in its efforts to implement screening physicals before deployment as a result of the Commission. We continue to work on improving the disability adjudication process for veterans,” said Dr. Nass.
She added that many of the Commission’s recommendations have been sent to Washington, D.C., including an increase in efforts to diagnosis and treat illnesses, making all anthrax vaccine safety data available to independent researchers, establishing a seamless electronic medical records system between the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs, and improving standards for the medical disability process.
“We all want soldiers to be taken care of as well as possible,” said Dr. Nass. “The Commission feels a responsibility to use its expertise to help make that happen.”