May 19, 2006
The United States responded with most of the rest of the Western world to the devastating December 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean. The US response was led initially by the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln battle group, which delivered about 6,000,000 pounds of food and water over the next month, saving thousands of lives. On 3 February the hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived off the coast of Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and relieved the Lincoln. For the next six weeks medical teams on Mercy composed of Navy medical personnel, Project Hope medical personnel volunteers, civilian mariners, and US Public Health Service medical personnel performed many thousands of hours of service helping the people of Aceh province.and those Acehenese became our heroes. None of us were heroic; we were doing what we knew how to do from the safety and comfort of a modern hospital ship. The people we treated, however, showed us the true meaning of family, resilience, love, and faith. We will be forever changed by the experience.as they will. The lessons learned from this experience could change considerably our efforts at medical diplomacy.
RADM William J. McDaniel, M.D., USN (ret) was born and raised on a small farm in Oklahoma, where he led a life of dreaming of faraway places and on which he had room enough for 'make-believe.' His life since that time has been trying to live up to those dreams. Attending college on a full wrestling scholarship, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Physiology in 1964 from Oklahoma State University. In 1964 he began studies at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine and received his Doctor of Medicine Degree in 1968. He completed his internship at St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1969. Dr McDaniel served 32 years in the Navy, making many of his dreams into reality. After a tour in Viet Nam with the Marines, he became an orthopedic surgeon, then transitioned to administrative medicine. In his tours he commanded 4 hospitals, each of which was exciting in a different way. The highlight came when his staff successfully met the challenge of Hurricane Hugo, which succeeded in closing 9 of the 10 hospitals in Charleston, SC. The only facility to remain functioning throughout was under his command, the Naval Hospital in Charleston. During his time in the Navy he dragged his family to diverse living places, including Spain, Japan, and Hawaii. His duties as the Surgeon for the Pacific Command required him to visit virtually every country in the Pacific.a chore he was not loathe to perform. Along the way he managed to remain active athletically, winning 5 Navy wrestling championships, 2 National Military championships, and a silver medal in the World Military Championships. He also served as an Olympic physician in the 1984 Olympics. Since retiring from the Navy in 1997, he has worked at many consulting jobs, including working for the Chief of Naval Operations for 6 months as Chairman of a Blue Ribbon Panel investigating Bethesda Naval Hospital. In an effort to remain somewhat youthful, he completed hiking the 2174 mile Appalachian Trail in 2004. Finally, in 2005 he led the efforts of the Naval Hospital Ship USNS Mercy in relief of the tsunami-devastated Banda Aceh, Somalia; he remained there 3 months, living the last month in a tent on Nias Island, Indonesia, following the 29 March 8.7 earthquake near that island. Dr. McDaniel still works extensively with relief organizations. His last major foray away from 'life as usual' not involving medicine was when he was the 'Mole' on ABC's "The Mole II, The Next Betrayal," a reality show. Luckily, he has a sane wife, Shirley, who has managed to keep him somewhat centered for the last 36 years.