Better Salute This GI Jane

As if launching the NorthBay Center for Women’s Health in 2010 wasn’t enough, Service Line Director Jane Prather started 2011 with a new task: She’s now leading the Medical Task Force East—in Afghanistan.

Col. Prather—as she’s known in her U.S. Army role— has embarked on a year-long mission, in which she’ll oversee health care for about 60 percent of the U.S. Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

She’s stationed in Bagram as the Deputy Commander of Medical Task Force East, a Joint Service-Coalition Forces Command, and will have responsibilities of coordinating U.S. medical assets as well as an Egyptian hospital, a Korean hospital and a Jordanian hospital in the area.

Some of these assets are an eight-bed, “Role 2” hospital in Salerno, which is a four-hour helicopter flight away from her base; dental, veterinarian, and preventive medicine teams; and several forward surgical teams, which can be dispatched to operate in a tent, if need be.

“I’ve really been looking forward to it. I’ve been training for 24 years to do this, and I’m good at my job,” she said with confidence.

Still, the colonel has to temporarily leave her family, including a son who will graduate high school while she’s away. “In truth, that’s my one regret,” she said.

Col. Prather was appointed service line director for the Women’s Health Services in 2008. The NorthBay Center for Women’s Health had its grand opening in January 2010, and soon joined Spirit of Women, a national coalition of hospitals focused on promoting education around women’s health issues.

In one year’s time, she has hired staff, including a women’s health coach, overseen plans for NorthBay’s first Girl’s Night Out, which opened to a sold-out crowd in October, established a Women’s Resource Center, penned several introductions to NorthBay Healthcare’s edition of the Spirit of Women quarterly magazine, and was just starting on plans for the Feb. 26 Day of Dance event before she had to ship out.

The Vacaville resident joined NorthBay Healthcare in 2001 as Wound Care Services Program Director. Her military career began in 1986, when she was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Medical Service Corps, attending officer basic training in Texas. She started with a dental detachment, focusing on dental administration, and became a registered nurse in 1989. Since then Col. Prather has had a multitude of assignments in the United States and Europe.

Her last big tour of duty came in 2007, when she was in charge of a patient administration division at a hospital in Kansas. She likes to tell her friends she did nine months hard time in Leavenworth—“that’s Fort Leavenworth.”

This tour, she expects, will be a little more intense. Still, she plans to stay in touch as much as she can with her colleagues and patients at NorthBay, promising to post commentary on the NorthBay Center for Women’s Health Facebook page—at least those experiences deemed appropriate by the U.S. Army.

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