Pacific professor aids Afghan refugees during Middle East deployment
Jed Grant, a University of the Pacific professor on military deployment, found himself immersed in the intensified plight of Afghanistan refugees—more than one-half million of whom have been driven from their country by conflict, violence and poverty during 2021, according to the United Nations.
Grant, an assistant professor in Pacific’s physician assistant (PA) program, has served with the California Army National Guard in the Middle East since Feb. 11. Most of his service has been in Kuwait, a destination for many fleeing Afghanis.
Grant helped refugee families with their health care needs. He found the experience daunting yet rewarding.
“Some of the Afghan special immigrant visa folks came to Kuwait. It was a great experience and an honor to serve them,” Grant said in a Zoom call from Egypt. “They were kept in a special area on base so if they were sick they did not contaminate anyone. We performed health care for them, and they were so appreciative.”
The gratitude expressed by many Afghan refugees “left me humbled,” Grant said.
“As we were doing screening, many of them were very dressed up. They were in nice suits or beautiful dresses,” Grant said. “So I asked one of the families, ‘I know you are fleeing your homes and it was very difficult to get out, so why are you all dressed so nicely?’ The husband told me ‘we want to look our best for America.’ ”
Grant has been based in Kuwait with the California Army National Guard 40th Combat Aviation Brigade during most of his deployment, which will run through early March 2022.
Having spent 22 years in emergency medicine, his military duties of training medics and serving patients have been similar to his past work, Grant said. But the conditions can be taxing compared to his classroom, lab and field work in the sparkling facilities of Pacific’s School of Health Sciences on the Sacramento Campus.
“We work in air-conditioned tents most of the time, so that is not bad. But the most challenging is working medevac in the back of aircraft wearing all the flight gear and trying to take care of patients,” Grant said. “The temperature can go over 130 degrees and you cannot speak due to the noise. Everything is vibrating and the patients can be very sick. It’s very challenging.”
Grant spent several months in a combat zone. He said indirect fire or being targeted are risks, but that they are mitigated by procedures, checklists and training.
And then there are the Kuwaiti dust storms.
“Kuwait has these huge dust storms. They really are very impressive,” Grant said. “It’s not easy to practice medicine in those. Think about doing it in the back of a helicopter with temperatures over 100 degrees.”
Grant and medical colleagues dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, and succeeded in getting most military personnel immunized early on. While calling the pandemic “a disaster” he said the proactive approach and eventual stronger military rules about vaccination requirements helped.
Mark Christiansen, PA program director and clinical associate professor at Pacific, is proud of Grant—as a supervisor and as a fellow military physician assistant.
“I think the military in general brings a lot of good qualities: discipline, organization, respect, and other traits that are part and parcel of being in the military. Jed exhibits all of those traits,” Christiansen said. “I was in the Army as a medic and also in the Air Force Reserve. So I have a lot of respect for what Jed is doing. All of us in the PA program are proud of his service.”
“Mark is fantastic. He’s been a mentor to me for some time now,” Grant said. “Our careers have followed a very similar trajectory. I don’t have to explain things because he just knows. I value being part of a great team at Pacific and I am looking forward to returning.”
Grant and his wife Becky have four sons, ranging in age from 20 to 30.
He expressed gratitude for the care packages he receives from family, Pacific colleagues and friends which “always seemed to show up at exactly the right time.”