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Columbia County sailor practices medicine at America's Cup

Posted: September 28, 2013 - 11:04pm  |  Updated: September 29, 2013 - 12:26am
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Special  Dr. Gehres Paschal, a Lakeside High School graduate, checks a defibrillator at The Kaiser Permanente Clinic at Pier 29, at San Francisco Bay, Calif., during the 2013 America's Cup events this summer.  Valerie Rowell
Valerie Rowell
Special Dr. Gehres Paschal, a Lakeside High School graduate, checks a defibrillator at The Kaiser Permanente Clinic at Pier 29, at San Francisco Bay, Calif., during the 2013 America's Cup events this summer.

 

A Lakeside High School alumna who spent much of her childhood sailing Clarks Hill Lake recently spent two weeks working at the America’s Cup.

The world’s best sailors gathered this summer for the sailing regatta that is equivalent to football’s Super Bowl or soccer’s World Cup. After falling behind 8-1 to Team New Zealand, Team USA won eight straight races to win the cup 9-8 this week.

Though she’s a lifelong sailor, Gehres Paschal wasn’t competing on the water. She treated sailors and patrons as an emergency medicine physician inside the American’s Cup Village in San Francisco Bay, Calif.

“It was amazing,” Paschal said of her two-week stint in San Francisco.

Paschal, 30, is a third-year emergency resident at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center Emergency Department in New York City. As an elective in the residency program, Paschal applied for an internship through Kaiser Permanente Corp., which provides medical support to the America’s Cup festivities.

After graduating Lakeside in 2001, Paschal went to the University of Georgia and graduated in 2005. She then went to the Medical College of Georgia, graduating in 2011.

While getting a master’s degree in Global Health Sciences from the University of California in San Francisco, Paschal said she spent a year in Nicaragua providing medical care and working in clinics. She also traveled to Central and South America, Europe and Africa on similar missions to provide medical care or attend conferences. Paschal’s father, Jim, said he wasn’t necessarily comfortable with her out-of-country excursions.

“We were a little nervous,” he said of hearing stories of her riding burros and traveling to isolated rural clinics in third world countries.

Some of Paschal’s independence and determination, her father said, come from a lifetime of sailing experience. A love of sailing goes back several generations in her family. Her father first took her on a boat at about age 4.

“It’s a family thing,” Paschal’s father said, adding his daughter grew up in the Augusta Sailing Club.

He distinctly remembers the panic when a storm arose after seeing his independent 11-year-old daughter sailing off alone across Clarks Hill Lake.

“She went ashore about six miles up the lake,” her father said, adding she was shaken, but rode out the storm fine.

It’s times like that that fostered Paschal’s don’t-tell-me-I-can’t-do-it attitude.

“Sailing teaches you independence,” her father said. “You just go out and challenge things.”

Paschal sought to combine her two passions – sailing and medicine - during two weeks at the America’s Cup. She served under faculty physicians in one of three medical tents at America’s Cup Village and America’s Cup Park on San Francisco Bay from Sept. 7-20.

Paschal said she and other residents also heard lectures and learned about mass gathering, disaster and mass casualty medicine, incident control and field and pre-hospital triage.

“It’s very, very important,” Paschal said of knowing what happens to her patients before they arrive in a hospital emergency department. “We learned about all of the things it took, all the coordinating, in case there was a disaster.”

Paschal said once her last year of residency is complete, she’ll be looking for a home to begin her career.

“I’d love to go back to the Bay area,” she said.

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