Lejeune sailor wins Navy Environmental Health Officer of the Year award

8 May 2010 | Lance Cpl. Victor A. Barrera

A Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune naval officer received the Navy’s Environmental Health Officer of the Year award, March 23, an award which is only given to one officer out of the entire Navy, every year for their outstanding work in the field of preventative medicine.

Lt. Matthew Mercer, head of preventive medicine with the Public Health Clinic, aboard Camp Lejeune, was chosen out of five other nominees. The candidates were all judged on the impact they make at their respective installations and the diversity of tasks each are responsible for.

“I’m really honored to win this award,” said Mercer. “Me winning, however, is largely due to the preventive medicine technicians and civilians.”

Mercer said that if it was not for the effort that his co-workers put in, he would never had gotten the award.

The preventive medicine staff’s job covers many aspects, but each one has the same goal in mind; reducing the risk of diseases as well as keeping the spreading of diseases under control.

One of the staff’s jobs is to conduct environmental health site assessments, which includes traveling to mess halls and determining whether they properly store food. This is done to ensure that service members are protected from diseases that can be in different types of foods. The areas that are inspected range from Camp Lejeune to Stone Bay and all the way to Marine Corps Air Station New River.

Along with that, preventive health takes care of vaccinations as well as stores vaccines for various diseases. On top of making sure his shop works like a well-oiled machine, Mercer manages the disease intervention unit.

“He’s very deserving of the award,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Shawn Maney, director of the Department of Public Health Services at the Public Health Clinic on base. “He’s always on top of everything and if someone has any questions he knows where to find the answer.”

Even though the preventive medicine staff is involved in several activities that combat diseases, they manage to stay out of the way and remain unnoticed.

When the H1N1 pandemic broke out the preventive medicine department was on hand to provide vaccinations, and prevent an outbreak which would have affected service members.

With preventive medicine, if a service member never knows what the problem was, then the preventive medicine staff did their job, said Mercer.