MDG bids farewell to dedicated volunteer

  • Published
  • By Maj. Daniel K. Gullekson
  • 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron
The permanent change of station season brings with it both happiness and sadness for many. Both active duty and family members are all affected with many being significantly missed with their departure. The 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron has such a person in Dr. Susan Sabers, Red Cross volunteer and optometrist.

Dr. Sabers (yes, "Sabers" is her real last name) came to Spangdahlem in 2005 with her husband, Maj. (Dr.) Craig McCluer. After arriving here Major McCluer, also an optometrist, assumed duties as Optometry Flight commander. His wife immediately saw a need for supplementary services due to the enormous amount of duties in that position.

"I instantly saw the significant amount of work that was going on in the clinic both with patient care and administratively," Dr. Sabers said. "I could see these guys needed a hand from time to time."

She hit the ground running and set out to get professionally credentialed with the medical group in order to provide complementary services to all beneficiaries.

"The flight was tasked to support a humanitarian mission with AFRICOM and were to send a doc and tech to Ghana, Africa," Dr. McCluer said. "It was a great opportunity, but at an inopportune time."

The mission was to occur during the back-to-school time frame -- is one of the busiest times of the year in the clinic. Without missing a beat, Dr. Sabers jumped into the clinic and provided much needed eye care in place of the deployed eye doctor. A similar situation occurred when an order for a Global War on Terror mission to Burundi, Africa, came down. There was zero downtime in services due to Dr. Sabers' volunteer time during this period.

A short time later one of the base optometrists garnered a spot in Squadron Officer School in-residence; however, once again, it came during a challenging period. A ramp-up was going on for nearly 500 deployers heading out the door.

"The clinic didn't even have to ask," Dr. Sabers said. "I offered my services and for that six-week period I was basically full time staff. Even though I wasn't getting paid, it felt good to support the mission."

Dr. Sabers examined many of these deployers and ensured they were all mission-ready with their required number of military glasses and gas-mask inserts.

Dr. Sabers' work went beyond just patient care. The clinic routinely hosts job-shadowing with the Spangdahlem Air Base Middle School. Dr. Sabers provided mentoring and job-shadowing to many students by presenting different features of the optometric and scientific career fields. This supplied well-received extra support to the Optometry Flight's already ongoing mentorship with the base's youths. The flight also runs The Young Scientists Program with the Bitburg Middle School science department. The students showed that they enjoyed her mentorship and by coming back later with an apple pie.

During her three year "tour," not only did she examine more than 1,400 patients saving the Air Force nearly $142,000 in outsourcing costs to civilian physicians, but she also came to be well known as "The Cookie Lady" due to her magnificent baking skills.

"There was no way you could turn down the cookies and brownies she would bring into the clinic," said Staff Sgt. Jesus Almero, 52nd AMDS eye technician. "They were awesome! It was really tough around PT test time!"

Dr. Sabers will be leaving Germany mid-July and will be moving with her husband to Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.