Dr. Joseph DeJames is well known throughout St. John as just one of two doctors serving the island from the Myrah Keating Smith Community Health Center. What many people may not know about him is that even off the job, DeJames continues to serve his community as medical advisor for both the V.I. National Park and St. John Rescue.
DeJames has devoted several hours to the VINP and St. John Rescue, in an effort to ensure medical services offered by both organizations are top-notch. Part of DeJames’ responsibility as the VINP’s medical director is to develop protocols to be followed during emergency situations within the Park.
“The protocols for the lifeguards have been a big help,” said VINP Chief Ranger Mark Marschall. “I don’t have any reason to doubt the care they were giving was good, it’s just that now it’s backed up by standing orders from a physician and I feel more comfortable knowing they have standard treatment methods for things they deal with frequently. It’s great for the quality of patient care, and I have somebody to ask for advice for any aspect of our emergency medical program.”
The protocols DeJames developed for the VINP help lifeguards properly treat the more than 450 minor injuries which occur each year, including sea urchin stings and abrasions and lacerations caused by coral. The local physician also helps out with life threatening incidents, Marschall explained.
Help With Protocols, Training
“He’s set up protocols for our most frequent patient care incidents, most of which happen at Trunk Bay beach, so they have standing orders and don’t need to call in to the clinic to provide treatment,” he said. “For any serious incidents, we’ll review patient care with
Dr. DeJames to ensure we administered the proper care. I forward all of our patient care reports to him every couple of months for his review.”
DeJames helps the VINP out with more than just patient care protocols — he helps out with training, and provides the authority the Park needs in order to provide medical care.
“Any National Park Service emergency medical service operation that performs a certain level of emergency services, which we do, has to have a medical advisor, which is a physician,” said Marschall. “The physician helps us with our training, and the oversight of our EMS program, and we really practice under their authority, which gives us the right to do patient care. We have EMTs, first responders and first aiders here, and we also have three AEDs (automatic external defibrillator) in the Park, so to operate those, we need a physician’s oversight.”
DeJames’ notoriety on island lends a degree of credibility to the VINP’s medical care, Marschall continued.
“He’s down to earth and he explains things how we can understand it,” he said. “He understands the environment we’re operating in and knows the challenges we’re up against. He’s got a great sense of humor and everybody knows him and respects him as a physician, so having him associated with us adds some credibility to our operation.”
DeJames also helps with the protocols and oversight of St. John Rescue, which has brought even more professionalism to the volunteer organization, according to the group’s public information officer Karin Schlesinger.
“Dr. DeJames has been extremely generous in providing time and assistance to Rescue,” said Schlesinger. “He’s especially helped us begin to build protocols that get us in synch with all the other agencies in how we respond to emergencies and how we document and report our findings. He’s also helped us overall to improve the professionalism of our organization.”
In addition to adding a degree of professionalism to the medical care provided by the VINP and St. John Rescue, the volunteer work DeJames does actually helps make his job as a MKSCHC physician easier by making sure everyone delivers the same level of patient care, which is the ultimate goal for the local physician, he explained.
“It’s a small community, and it allows me to tie in with all the other services and do what’s best, hopefully, in the interest of patient care,” said DeJames. “I thought getting involved would allow a little bit more cohesiveness, so hopefully with any major situation that’s occurred, everybody’s on the same page. The way we’re operating is not dividing things up; instead, everybody works together, and if I can play a role to help with that, that’s great.”
Although acting as medical advisor for both the VINP and St. John Rescue is time-consuming, it helps ensure those who are injured on St. John receive excellent medical care, explained DeJames.
DeJames Goes Above and Beyond
“It’s a time commitment, but I participate as much as I can,” he said. “I have the authority to move information in a way so that everybody is hopefully communicating on the same level. I just make sure they do a great, wonderful job, and give them medical advice on the most appropriate treatments.”
DeJames has gone above and beyond simply offering medical advice, explained Schlesinger.
“He’s even allowed us to work with his private boat for training purposes,” she said. “On behalf of St. John Rescue, I can tell you we are unanimously appreciative.”
The local physician’s time is invaluable to the VINP, Marschall explained.
“It’s a lot of responsibility, it’s vital to our operations and he’s doing it just out of a sense of civic responsibility,” said Marschall.