Nevada Air Guard Captain Caleena Longworth knew at age 10 that she wanted to be a doctor, and in January of this year, in the last semester of her MD program, she was at a class.
With the class not due to start until April, UNLV’s Kirk Kerkorian Medical School offered him two months of vacation. Instead, Longworth, an Air Force veteran and native of Reno, began administering thousands of vaccines to Nevadans at the Cashman Center.
“It’s one of those things where you have a skill set and your community really needs it,” Longworth said. “If you don’t have enough vaccinators, it’s more people who have to wait until the next day, more weeks that the state is pushed back from reopening and longer that grandparents cannot be reunited with their families. grandchildren. “
Longworth handled National Guard activations during the pandemic, first in April 2020 when she helped establish and was the officer in charge of the first community collection site in southern Nevada, where COVID testing -19 were made. Then, in January, it reactivated.
In the meantime, she has also administered vaccines on behalf of the UNLV. All the while, Longworth was working as part of his doctoral program.
Guard officials said few people in the state had administered more vaccines than Longworth, who vaccinated more than 4,000 people. While on duty, she received the nickname “Baby Doc” from her healthcare colleagues due to her youthful appearance.
Nevada Air Guard 2nd Lt. Samirah Furham, who oversaw the Cashman site, said from day one Longworth has proven to be a valuable asset and mentored others. Furham also noted that Longworth cultivated a stimulating environment and maintained an “incredible level of professionalism”.
“As a doctor or medical student, you must strive to be a pillar of your community, and during this mission she has certainly achieved that goal,” Furham said. “She definitely exceeded expectations.”
If you ask your friends and family, Longworth has shown a dedication to helping others throughout her life. Now, at age 30, she is in the first weeks of her residency at St. Mark’s Hospital in Mill Creek, Utah.
To call the trip difficult would be an understatement, Longworth said.
Her connection to medicine began at birth, when Longworth was born with a condition called the duplex collection system. The disease, caused by an incomplete fusion of a kidney, leads to painful and potentially fatal infections.
Longworth underwent surgery at the age of 2 to remove the defective kidney, but ended up with a scar on the right side of her abdomen and a lasting interest in medical science. In the years since, Longworth said, people around her have always seemed interested in the scar and its history.
“That’s what made me special,” Longworth said. “I had this positive interaction with my doctor, and he always said to me, ‘Oh, let’s see that scar you have,’ and it made me feel unique.”
After graduating from high school, Longworth enlisted in the Air Force, where she served as a Spanish linguist. She called the prospect of getting an academic aide from GI Bill “an opportunity that someone in her background couldn’t pass up.”
Longworth, the oldest of four sisters to a single mother, had spent most of her childhood in low-income apartments and a double-width trailer.
“We were on food stamps, and she was struggling to get paid,” Longworth said. “I grew up, I would say, quite poor, but as I got older I realized how lucky my childhood was. But I had to find a way to pay for my studies.
After her enlistment, she enrolled at the University of Nevada at Reno to complete her biology degree and met her husband, who was serving in the Nevada Air Guard. Longworth would eventually sign up as well. She has been with the guard since and has no intention of stopping.
“My brothers and sisters, we are ready to die for each other, and just working alongside these amazing people from all walks of life is something you really don’t find in any other job or location,” said Longworth. “I still want to serve my country in this capacity. I am ready to deploy for my country, if that is what they need.
Contact Mathew Miranda at email@example.com. Follow mathewjmiranda on Twitter. Editor Briana Erickson contributed to this report.