Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Sehorn, M.D., a general surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital (left) and Lt. Eduardo Lopez, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Houston Methodist Hospital, are serving aboard the USNS Mercy. (Courtesy photo)
Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Sehorn, M.D., a general surgeon at Houston Methodist Hospital (left) and Lt. Eduardo Lopez, a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Houston Methodist Hospital, are serving aboard the USNS Mercy. (Courtesy photo)
People

Houston Methodist surgeon and nurse served aboard USNS Mercy in Los Angeles

The clinicians, both U.S. Navy Reserve members, are performing emergency surgeries to relieve Los Angeles-area hospitals treating COVID-19 patients

Houston Methodist surgeon and nurse served aboard USNS Mercy in Los Angeles

3 Minute Read

U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Sehorn, M.D., a general surgeon, and Lt. Eduardo Lopez, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, have been working together in operating rooms at Houston Methodist Hospital since 2017.

But after being called to military duty in late March, the Navy Reserve members left Houston to team up offshore in Los Angeles. Now, Sehorn and Lopez report to work aboard the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Mercy to perform emergency surgeries that help relieve local hospitals treating patients diagnosed with COVID-19.

“I spent two years here in L.A. doing my graduate training, so being close to L.A. and serving the citizens out here is special to me,” Lopez said.

The USNS Mercy began seeing patients on March 29. One of the missions of the Department of Defense is to provide defense support of civil authorities. Through their medical work on the ship, the Navy is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as well as state, local and public health authorities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
Looking for the latest on the CORONAVIRUS? Read our daily updates HERE.
::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::

Lt. Eduardo Lopez, a certified registered nurse anesthetist, left, and Lt. Cmdr. Timothy Sehorn, M.D. (Courtesy photo)

A crew remains aboard the ship at all times, but most of the medical team—including Sehorn and Lopez—reside at a nearby hotel to help maintain social distancing and curb the potential spread of COVID-19. Each morning, they report to duty to address emergencies ranging from appendectomies and gall bladder removals to orthopedic traumas. All potential patients are screened and tested for COVID-19 before being admitted to the floating medical center aboard the USNS Mercy.

“We act like a regular hospital anywhere in the country,” Sehorn said. “We evaluate them for the care they need and provide the services they need and do everything until they get home.”

Depending on the surgery required, patients remain on the ship as they recover—which could last anywhere from days to weeks.

“Our main focus is to offload potential overrun of the local hospitals and provide space in those hospitals for COVID patients,” Sehorn said. “All the patients that have come have been very grateful, very happy and have enjoyed the experience on the ship.”

Although the setting is different, Sehorn said they are able to provide the same high level of care provided in the Texas Medical Center.

Lt. Eduardo Lopez hangs an antibiotics bag in an operating room aboard the hospital ship USNS Mercy on April 30, 2020. (Credit: Petty Officer 2nd Class Ryan Breeden)

Sehorn has worked at Houston Methodist since 2002. He grew up in a military family—his father was a surgeon in the Army—and he joined the Navy Reserve three years ago when he felt called to service.

Lopez joined the Navy after high school and served as a combat medic in Fallujah, Iraq. He then earned his nursing degree and became an intensive care nurse before going to graduate school to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. The two first met at Ellington Field Joint Reserve Base in Houston during a drill weekend. Both were honored last year with a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal for increasing the medical readiness of the Houston Navy Operation Support Center by 10 percent.

“One of the biggest things for me was to give back to my country—give back to the community,” Lopez said. “I’ve always enjoyed my line of work, but it means even more to me doing it for the Navy and doing it for my country and for everyone here.”

Both Sehorn and Lopez said they feel honored to serve aboard to the USNS Mercy during this global crisis.

“It all comes down to taking care of patients and providing excellent, high-level care,” Sehorn said. “Whether it’s in the civilian sector or here in the military, the mission is the same. It’s an honor and privilege to serve amongst my fellow Navy medicine comrades.”

Note: The USNS Mercy has stopped receiving patients for surgeries but remains in Los Angeles for anticipated support for COVID-19 patients. Both Lt. Cmdr. Sehorn and Lt. Lopez are still stationed there and carrying out their assigned duties. 

Back to top