One of his unique strengths is that he has an understanding of the cultures that he deals with.

He has that wanderlust to be out there. Now he wants to see where people live in native America. He wants to experience them on a one-on-one basis in their homes.

My name’s Thomas Pryor. I’m a lieutenant commander and I’m a public health nurse now with the Indian Health Services.

No problems with allergies to eggs?

No. I just have a problem with needles.

Well, hopefully you won’t have to come back for another year.

My interest in the Indian Health Service had gone back years before because I’d always had an affinity and respect for the culture and so thought this is a great way to being this together.

Okay. Take care. Nice to meet you.

I wanted a rural setting to begin with and so I’ve now come to the Hickory Healthcare Clinic, working in the public health nurse capacity.

It’s just an excellent opportunity when we have a new officer come to a Native American community that we take him out and we show him the experience through our eyes.


So he’s meeting the shareholders, if you will, in healthcare in this community. We’re letting them know who he is, what he’s going to be providing to the community, and they can tell him the expectations that they have as a new field nurse coming into the community.

Here you go!

Part of my interest and one of my growing areas that I want to explore more in nursing is community development and there’s no better place to do that than to work in the community in the individual’s home, assisting them with their healthcare needs.

The importance of doing the home visits is basically what we provide the elders, especially their healthcare. A lot of them don’t drive. They don’t have any other means of getting around so we have become their resource.

Hello! I made it. I brought your medications.

What I like about the home visits is the fact that you’re helping them empower themselves in their own medical care.

You touch the life of an individual. You touch the life of a family and then you touch the life of a community like Thomas did on the Mercy ship in the Indian Ocean. So he’s touching lives on a one-on-one basis as well as the families who are affected.

My first deployment was in response to the tsunami in Indonesia. Specifically I was involved with an 11-year-old boy that was actually found two days after the tsunami floating on a piece of debris. His uncle who had stayed by his bedside the entire time also told me that he had lost both of his parents and all of his siblings. He held this little fire in his eyes and so in the journal that I had written about him, I identified him as Harapan which is Indonesian for “hope”.

I got the unique opportunity to take him, escort him back to the University hospital where he met his uncle and his aunt and their child and in essence his new family. All of this certainly became extremely powerful for me because at the same token I had just had my first child.

Peek-a-boo! Hello, daddy. I see you. Thank you!

Living here in Pagosa Springs has been kind of a coming together both for myself and my wife and our family. And since I’ve become part of the Commissioned Corps I’ve been able to actually not have to work two jobs where I’d usually do that in private sector. It’s something that’s given me a lot more time, certainly with family, and an opportunity to explore some more of my personal interest. The whole back yard is like a natural forest, in a sense. There’s—on a day-to-day we can go hiking right out our back door any given day.

Being in a rural setting that allows both for my wife and me specifically to kind of reconnect with the land, with the area around us, the environment.

With Thomas being in the Corps we have, I would venture to say, a pretty nice quality of life. I mean, if he were working in this community as a nurse just in the public arena he wouldn’t make the salary he makes, and that certainly directly affects us as a family. It affects my own ability to go to school, pursue my education, be a stay-at-home mom. So we have a pretty nice life.

Yeah, there are great benefits. You have perhaps some of the best healthcare available to certainly to families.

Are you finding work?


There’s opportunities for travel. Certainly I think one of the big benefit advantages to the uniformed services is we get a tax-free housing allowance.

Take care. Okay, Roland?

Another thing that I look forward to and appreciate for the Commissioned Corps is that I’ll be able to retire at 55, hopefully still be young enough and youthful enough to take on the responsibilities of a small ranch, small farm.

Buffalo have a symbolic value to me and a personal interest that I hope to pursue in the future. And certainly for the Hickory Apache—[inaudible] is the apache word for buffalo—holds a very important part of their culture in terms of ritual and ceremony. And for me it’s a certainly noble creature that I find some internal draw toward.

It’s beautiful country. I like being out in the environment.

The thing that’s unique and that I really enjoy and believe in the Commissioned Corps is our mission statement: protecting promoting and advancing the health and safety of the nation.

I describe myself as a health diplomat. What I mean by that is I’m an advocate for health diplomacy in terms of public health awareness, both here on a local level with the community I serve, the Hickory Apache, as well as nationally.

Commissioned Corps allows me to support those greater needs but also at the same token as a public health nurse with Indian Health Service because the Commissioned Corps serves various agencies. I’m very able to do that in a way that I may not have been able to do without the Commissioned Corps.