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NEWS | Oct. 8, 2020

Army Reserve physician assistant from Alabama returns from federal COVID response mission

By Col. Meritt Phillips Army Reserve Medical Command

“I never imagined my first mobilization would be for something like this. It was a huge honor to take care of my fellow Americans,” commented Army Reserve 1st Lt. Marcelo Novaes Gerjoi, a physician assistant from Daphne, Alabama, on his experience serving with an Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force mobilized to South Texas.

Gerjoi was a member of Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force -7452, a team of 85 doctors, nurses, combat medics, respiratory therapists, and ancillary personnel that extend the capacity of care that civilian medical facilities can offer their community.

UAMTF-7452 was mobilized for almost two months to support DHR Health in Edinburg, Texas.

Gerjoi initially worked in the emergency room before being assigned to a rapid response team with several other providers. The team responded to codes, performed intubations and assisted with skilled procedures such as chest tubes and central lines.

Employed by the University of South Alabama Medical Center neurosurgery department in his civilian career, Gerjoi did not have significant experience treating COVID-19 patients prior to the mobilization.

“We jumped right in and it was hectic,” he shared. “Although my role at home is different, my training as a physician assistant makes us very adaptable. Being on the front line in a hard hit area is very eye-opening.”

He complimented his employer’s support to his military service.

“One of my supervisors is in the Navy Reserve and was also deployed as support for COVID-19 in New York. My department and my institution have been very supportive.”

Originally from Brazil, Gerjoi was raised in Marietta, Georgia. He found his way to the military later in life.

“To join the military was a life-long dream,” he shared. “One major contributing factor to me joining was my grandfather, Ben Gerjoi, who served in World War II.”

“Although he passed prior to me joining, my grandmother was very proud to see me join. I enlisted as a medic and went to basic at 33 years old.”

Gerjoi attended basic combat training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in 2012 and trained as a combat medic at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas. He was accepted to the Inter-service Physician Assistant Program and completed his clinical rotations at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. He commissioned as a 1st Lt. upon graduation from IPAP in October 2017.

“I am proud to wear the uniform; it’s my form of service,” shared Gerjoi. “I was a licensed chiropractor prior to become a PA and I am currently working to see if I can make this skill useful to the Army.”

One of more than 1,000 skilled Army Reserve Soldiers mobilized since March to provide Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s whole-of-American response to the pandemic, Gerjoi’s family support system included his fiancée and his twelve year old son Mason.

As he returned to Alabama, Gerjoi offered some advice to those still on the front lines of the pandemic.

“As my former First Sergeant Benson used to say, ‘stay fluid and stay flexible’. This is an ever changing environment. A good attitude goes a long way.”