It's all for their health: Officer recognized for medical intelligence prominence

28 Jan 2019 | Cpl. Ashley Lawson 2nd Marine Logistics Group

The United States Navy and Marine Corps share a special bond by not only working alongside each other, but also have the same core values of honor, courage and commitment. That commitment includes being dedicated and invested in a cause close to your heart, which is exactly what the new Medical Intelligence Officer of the Year exuded.

Navy Lieutenant Mickenzie Pearson with 2nd Medical Battalion, 2nd Marine Logistics Group, has earned the Medical Intelligence Officer of the Year for 2018. This prestigious award is presented to a member of the plans, operations and medical intelligence (POMI) community. Earning the award was not only a surprise but a humbling experience for this year’s recipient.

“When they told me I was the winner, I was absolutely shocked,” said Pearson. “I didn’t even know they put a package in for me. I was surprised, shocked and actually humbled. It’s awesome to be recognized among other individuals that are planning exercises at that strategic and operational level.”

The operations officer who receives the Medical Intelligence Officer of the Year award is hand-picked from among a group of their peers. This niche is a highly specialized group of Medical Service Corps officers that are equally versed in strategic doctrine and operational processes, as with public health practice and medical capabilities.

Upon meeting Pearson, she immediately radiated an aura of compassion and confidence. At every opportunity, the healthcare administrator bragged eagerly about the hard work and dedication of her subordinates and peers.

“You can’t do anything on your own; there’s no secret,” gushed Pearson. “I could work 24 hours a day and still wouldn’t be able to accomplish a quarter of what we do now. I hope they truly recognize my sincerity when I thank them and praise them, because I’ve been in their shoes.”

Pearson attended college before she joined the Navy obtaining an undergraduate degree with an emphasis on biology and premedical. She later earned a master’s degree in healthcare administration. She said without a doubt she wanted to be in the healthcare profession since she was a young girl.

“As far back as I could remember I always wanted to be a doctor,” she reminisced. “I remember when I was in 2nd grade and I told my pediatrician I wanted to be a nurse. [The doctor] was a woman and she told me, ‘you don’t want to be a nurse, you want to be a doctor’. That single, defining moment stuck in my head for years, even through college and later joining the military when it was rough and I wanted to quit.”

In the early days of her military career, she was enlisted as a hospital corpsman for nine years and deployed to Iraq twice. In 2004, then Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Pearson was a casualty evacuation corpsman while assigned to Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMM-161), Marine Aircraft Group 16, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing.

“I was 23 at the time and this was the first combat experience for a lot of us, I think nothing really prepares you for that,” she said. “It was a wonderful experience looking back on it, there were certainly challenges and aspects of it that I wasn’t prepared for. It definitely helped shape me and make me who I am today.”

Pearson explains she was convinced that she wanted to be a doctor, then after her first tour veered onto a new path. She realized she loved medicine and healthcare but preferred the administration side of it.

“Right around the time I was serving overseas, I looked deep down and understood what I tend to excel at,” Pearson said. “Even though I enjoyed it, I don’t know if I want to do hands-on patient care.”

During the next rotation in 2006, newly-promoted Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Pearson served as the aide for the command master chief of the unit and quickly realized the structure of the base was drastically improved.

“The first time we went, it was a bombed-out building that had plywood on the sides and we rarely had air-conditioning,” Pearson recalled. “Everything was being worked out at the time; we were CASEVAC and point of injury all the way up to Baghdad. By the time we went back, everything had changed. I had a car I could drive around and I even had my own room I lived in.”

Shortly after returning from overseas in 2007, Pearson was promoted to chief petty officer. She said she loved being a chief and taking care of sailors, which to her is the most important to present date. Her personal belief then as it is now, is that showing up and caring is what it’s all about.

Pearson returned to school to earn her master’s degree in healthcare administration and then was directly commissioned as a healthcare administrator after being enlisted for nine years. She said she loves that she can still have that impact on Sailors, but now she also has the operational and mission-oriented focus to accomplish her unit’s mission.

“Becoming a POMI officer kept me in the medical field, but allowed me to work specifically in what I love,” she said. “Getting commissioned gave me a bigger opportunity to impact people and influence them in a new way.”

Pearson has been in the Navy for 18 years and says she isn’t sure what she wants to do next. She continues to push the boundaries and ask herself ‘what does the next fight looks like.’

“Reflecting on my day-to-day, it reminds me how awesome and hard-working my subordinates are,” said Pearson. “I’m just so humbled the pieces of the puzzle really came together and the right people are in this unit wanting to make a difference.”

The mission of 2nd Medical Battalion, 2nd MLG, is to provide medical support to II Marine Expeditionary Force during combat operations, be prepared to deploy on short notice in order to meet the warfighters needs in any environment, and to save every life.