Vonnie Gratz, a longtime emergency nurse practitioner for Mayo Clinic Health System, was deployed recently to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta; while there, she worked in the CDC Ebola call center with CDC epidemiologists fielding calls from health care providers in the US and military branches.

Gratz was asked to apply for a Minnesota Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT) spot in 2012, and, because it’s an agency of the federal government, Gratz needed to be vetted thoroughly, so it took nearly a year for her to be cleared, she said. “There are about 12 steps, and it seemed like each step took about a month; it’s a high level of security.”

A DMAT is a group of professional and para-professional medical personnel supported by myriad logistical and administrative staff who provide medical care during disasters or other emergency situations, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The National Disaster Medical System (NDMS), a federally coordinated system that’s part of Health and Human Services, buttresses federal agencies in the management and coordination of the federal medical response to major emergencies and declared disasters.

Each state has one or two DMAT teams, she said. In addition to her time with the CDC, Gratz and her Minnesota team were also dispatched to the east coast for Super Storm Juno late last month.

Her deployment to the CDC lasted two weeks, from January 4-18, she said. She had the 4 p.m.-midnight slot, and she worked 14 shifts while there.

Though she only had two days notice, she said MCHS has been totally supportive of her DMAT trips, getting people to cover her shifts. While at the CDC, she was privileged to work alongside some of the premier epidemiologists in the world.

“I felt like such a small fish,” she said. “It was an opportunity of a lifetime.”

As one might expect, and hope, security at the CDC is severe, she said. “It took me a whole day just to get clearance.”

The Ebola reaction has been the “largest clinical response in the history of the CDC,” Gratz said. The clinical inquiries team for Ebola has been staffed 24-hours a day since March of 2014.

For the rest of this story, please see the February 26 print edition of the St. James Plaindealer--available now.