By Steve Guntli
A local dentist is volunteering his time for a mission of mercy with the U.S. Navy.
Dr. Patrick Rooney of Blaine Harbor Dental is shipping out with the USNS Mercy for Pacific Partnership 2016, as part of a contingent of sailors, marines and civilians who will provide medical care and other services to west Pacific nations. The mission is part of a multi-nation partnership that will also include personnel from Australia, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan and New Zealand.
Rooney learned about the program through the American Dental Association, which put out a call to interested dentists last December. Rooney frequently visits San Diego, which is the Mercy’s homeport, and always wanted to volunteer, so he jumped at the opportunity.
“I think it’s important for this ship to be out there,” he said. “Sometimes the military can project a certain intimidating air, but this is a way to show that there’s a humanitarian side, and we’re doing a lot of good. I’m just so immensely proud to be a part of this.”
Rooney and other medical and dental professionals will visit impoverished countries in the Pacific to administer healthcare and provide an educational exchange with local doctors.
“This is not going to be a luxury cruise,” Rooney said. “This is a hard-working venture, but it’s a great opportunity for people in my profession to give back.”
Last year, the Mercy did a five-month deployment in Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam and the Philippines. Rooney said he’s not allowed to disclose where the ship is going on this tour.
“The Navy needs to protect its assets, which I understand,” he said. “So they keep specific shipping dates and locations on a need-to-know basis.”
Rooney left for San Diego on May 14 to begin his training. He’ll ship out with the Mercy in mid-June and return in mid-July. He has prior experience with the Navy, having served as a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam war.
“I’m excited to get to know this new generation and learn the modern culture of the Navy,” he said.
Rooney started Blaine Harbor Dental in 1997. He is a fourth-generation Blaine resident, and even though his family moved around a lot when he was younger, he always viewed Blaine as a home base. He and his wife, Jeanie, have three daughters.
Rooney’s office will continue to operate and take appointments in his absence. He has recruited colleagues who can handle general dentistry needs or emergency surgery, should the need arise. Blaine Harbor Dental is located at 215 Marine Drive, and can be reached at 360/332-2400.