“We’re the first line of defense,” is the motto that the West Point Department of Public Health lives by to protect West Point and six other installations in the Northeast it serves in public, environmental, industrial hygiene and occupational health. The job they do in general over the years may have gone under the radar, but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the frontal lobe of everyone’s minds, it powered public health to the spotlight.
“Before COVID-19, nobody knew who we were,” LTC Michael Greifenstein ’02, former chief of the West Point Department of Public Health and currently an assistant public health emergency officer to the U.S. Military Academy, said. “We were working behind the scenes. It’s a glory-less job for all intents and purposes. COVID-19 has thrusted us to the forefront … nothing that we ever wanted but we’re happy we are here to do what we did protecting the community.”
Greifenstein has a saying from a Benjamin Franklin axiom, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” which is about stopping something from happening in the first place rather than trying to repair the damage after it has happened. This axiom is the world that public health is always functioning in to be one step ahead of a possible health disaster.
“We are the ounce of prevention to make sure the commanders don’t have to pull out a pound of cure, specifically my hospital commander (Col. Brett H. Venable),” Greifenstein said of the former Keller Army Community Hospital commander. “My job is to keep people out of the sick bay, sick call, keep the population healthy and allow them to thrive and do what they need to do. Read more.