Dr. Helen Chun: Serving in the Navy to Save Lives

first_img In recognition for her work as Program Manager of the Department of Defense HIV/AIDS Prevention Program (DHAPP) from 2007 to June 2010, Dr. Helen Chun, a former Navy commander, was awarded the Meritorious Medal of Honor for Military Health in first class by Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega on 19 August, 2010. Nicaragua is one of the countries participating in the Central America regional partnership Framework under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). “It is just one of the militaries in the region we will continue to work with over at least the next five years,” explains Dr. Chun. “If one life is saved or the suffering made less severe as compared to before our joint interventions, then it is worth it,” Dr. Chun says of her work. Born in the United States to Korean parents, Helen Chun was raised in New York, and from a very young age, was committed to studying medicine and being involved with international health issues. Her first formative experience was during her first summer in college, while on a trip to southern India where she studied TB meningitis and worked at a medical hospital and rehabilitation center treating spinal cord injury patients. Helen visited Latin America for the first time in 1994 when she traveled to Colombia to study Chagas disease – a tropical parasitic disease caused by blood-sucking insects, parasites and infected transfusions or transplants. Realizing that joining the Navy would grant her flexibility to choose any medical school she wanted to attend, Helen signed on as a Lieutenant under the Health Professional Scholarship Program in 1998, on her last year with the Massachusetts School of Technology (MIT), where she also studied Spanish. “Using my Spanish language skills, I have been able to engage with partner militaries to help establish and strengthen HIV prevention programs in Latin America,” added Dr. Chun. Specializing in internal medicine and infectious diseases in the Navy gave Dr. Chun vast experience in that field, including studying leishmaniasis in Peru, and participating in field missions in Bolivia and El Salvador. Since she began working with the DHAPP, Dr. Chun has traveled to over 30 countries. With each experience, she has increased her knowledge of working with HIV/AIDS patients and on treating tropical diseases. Dr. Chun has been caring for HIV/AIDS patients since 2003, working with HIV/AIDS programs in foreign militaries since 2005, with a special interest in the Caribbean and Latin America. Dr. Chun separated from the Navy in October 2010, after 12 years of dedicated service. She is currently completing her Master’s Degree in Public Health at San Diego State University and will continue to represent the militaries and their priorities in HIV program development in the region. By Dialogo November 04, 2010last_img

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