Media, Pa., physician serves on the front lines of military COVID-19 response

By Lt. Col. Meritt Phillips | Army Reserve Medical Command | May 26, 2020

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STAMFORD, Conn. —

I can’t tell you how rewarding it was to be able to do my duty in service to our nation right here at home,” shared Lt. Col. Robert A. Bassett. “Nothing is more gratifying or inspiring than being able to have the mission be within our own borders and directly bring aid to our countrymen and countrywomen.“

Originally from Newtown, the emergency medicine physician made his way back to his home state of Connecticut as part of an Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force. He is one of more than 1,200 Army Reserve medical professionals that have mobilized in Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces as part of the Department of Defense response to COVID-19, which is being led by U.S. Northern Command.

Specifically created to respond in this time of crisis, UAMTFs augment the civilian medical community by delivering a wide range of critical medical capabilities. Each 85-person UAMTF consists of doctors, nurses, combat medics, respiratory therapists, and ancillary personnel.

“Our mission was to help stabilize and decompress health care systems overwhelmed by the pandemic. We provide force-multiplying essential health care professionals and equipment to treat COVID patients,” explained Bassett. His team, Task force 811-1, was assigned to Stamford Hospital - Bennett Medical Center.

“Being new to the physical location and integrating with the local staff here was a tremendous amount of things to learn about and the staff here was amazing, so appreciative of our role here,” stated Bassett.

A graduate of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine class of 2006, Bassett completed his Emergency Medicine Residency at the Indiana School of Medicine in Indianapolis, Indiana in 2009.

When asked what led him to military service, Bassett shared “My Dad was class of 1969 at West Point, and his Dad was the class of 1919. My other grandfather and multiple uncles served as well. I was born in Germany as an Army brat. Needless to say Army was in my blood.”

He further explained, “I always looked forward to the opportunity to serve in the military and after medical school I had the opportunity to combine my love of medicine with passion for the military.”

Bassett, who served his first duty assignment at Ft. Polk in Leesville, Louisiana, also deployed with the 86th Combat Support Hospital to Baghdad, Iraq in 2009. He joined the Army Reserve at the end of his active duty obligation.

“I really enjoy the camaraderie and being part of team of highly motivated, adventurous professionals, serving on the leading edge,” he said about his decision to continue his service.

Bassett now lives in Media, Pennsylvania with his wife, Dr. Blair Hontz, and son, Graham.

“I know they are very proud of me but everyone who has served in uniform knows that it’s harder to be left behind than to leave. The real sacrifice is the one made by our loved ones, the sacrifice that all of our families make takes a toll,” he shared.

“Ultimately, my family is endlessly supportive but it’s hard to explain to a 6-year-old why daddy isn’t coming home for a while,” said Bassett when asked about his family.

When not serving in uniform, Dr. Bassett is employed by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and serves as the Associate Medical Director of the Philadelphia Poison Control Center. He is a member of the Army Reserve Medical Command, North East Medical Area Readiness Group, 7457th Medical Backfill Battalion based in Richmond, Virginia.

Bassett, who wore an ‘unmasked’ photo of himself taped to his medical gown so his patients could see his entire face, was honest and direct with the patients that he was treating.

“I tell my COVID-19 patients, there will be tough times ahead and things always seem worse after dark. But there is light at the end of the road. You are not alone. We are all in this together and we will get through this.”

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