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"We may or may not have gotten along, but when a trauma or crisis was occurring, everyone just clicked right in and did their job, and it was possibly the best moments of my life, and my medical career." (Video interview, 1:14:23)

   Rupa Dainer
Collection image
Rupa Dainer at time of interview
War: Afghan War, 2001-
Branch: Navy
Unit: Combat Logistics Battalion 15; National Naval Medical Center; Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Service Location: Rhode Island; Bethesda, Maryland; Washington, DC; Camp Pendleton, California; Afghanistan
Rank: Commander
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Commander Rupa Dainer was born in Washington, DC to parents from India who wanted her to have the opportunities associated with being a United States citizen. She had talents for music and dance, but her determination to become a doctor drove her to overcome obstacles--and her own doubts -- and earn an officer’s commission as a Navy anesthesiologist. She deployed to southern Helmand Province, Afghanistan with the Marines in 2009, where she faced adverse conditions and the stress of caring for gravely wounded personnel. Despite the strain and tension of her deployment, she remembers it as the most rewarding experience of her medical career.

Interview (Video)
»Interview Highlights  (16 clips)
» Part 1 
Download: video (143 min.)
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 Video (Interview Excerpts) (16 items)
Why she decided to join the military as a doctor; experiences at Officer Indoctrination School. (11:51) Being commissioned as an officer; training with the medical personnel at Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL Training school; earning the respect of the Marines she served with in Afghanistan. (05:44) Experiences in medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences; importance of her mentor - Angie Lazarus; deciding to switch from internal medicine to anesthesiology. (05:10)
Completing residency and initial practice in anesthesiology; encountering sexism and discrimination in the military; becoming a mother. (09:12) Receiving orders to deploy to Afghanistan with the Marines; making arrangements for childcare during her deployment; recording video messages for her children to watch while she was deployed. (07:38) Pre-deployment training with her medical team; deploying to Afghanistan - where she and her colleagues were initially shocked by the conditions they faced. (07:35)
Challenges of maintaining sanitary medical conditions in Afghanistan; challenges of providing emergency medical care to those wounded in combat; spirit of camaraderie and teamwork that developed in her medical team. (02:47) Describes the Marine units she worked with, and the medical facility she worked in, which treated seriously wounded personnel. (03:04) Acclimating to Afghanistan; dealing with intermittent periods of boredom and crisis; getting to know the Marines on base; getting into physical fitness and martial arts while in Afghanistan. (06:58)
Challenges of communicating with her family while deployed; sense of perspective she gained from training and deploying with the Marines. (04:03) Reflections on the role of doctors and women in a combat zone; winning the respect of the men she worked with, including some who made sexist remarks. (02:54) Maintaining the close bonds she formed with the people she deployed with. (02:08)
Pranks that they played on each other; recognition of Mother’s Day while deployed; memories of other humorous moments. (03:55) Reflections on the emotions of going home from deployment and seeing her children again; difficulties of readjusting to life outside of a combat zone. (07:21) Deciding to leave the military after 13 years of service - feeling she had to choose between the military and her children. (04:39)
Sense of perspective that she has gained from the military; family legacy of military service; her patriotism and sense of pride in the United States. (06:38)  

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  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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