ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Michelle Racicot, a contract family nurse practitioner at Sandia National Laboratories, was one of 14 women recognized by first lady Michelle Obama at the White House as Champions of Change. The event during Women’s History Month honored women veterans who have made a major impact on the nation’s communities, businesses and schools. Hundreds were nominated for the award.
The first lady recognized the group on behalf of her Joining Forces Initiative, which helps veterans and military families receive benefits, support and respect.
“You are the leaders in our businesses and schools in our communities,” she said. “You don’t stop serving after you hang up your uniforms. And that’s something that we say all the time about our veterans. It’s important for the nation to understand that you all keep working.”
Racicot, an Albuquerque native, enlisted in the military straight out of high school in 1997. She ended her service 13 years later, transformed into an Army nurse who saved lives on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Advocate for servicewomen
Racicot is vice executive director of American Women Veterans (AWV), a national organization that advocates on behalf of servicewomen, veterans and their families. She’s also vice chairwoman of Cuidando Los Ninos, an Albuquerque nonprofit committed to ending child homelessness. She educates legislators and community members on homelessness, post-traumatic stress disorder, women in combat and health issues.
“I love everything I do,” she said. “It’s just who I am.”
Through Army training Racicot became a medic and a licensed practical nurse while stationed in Fort Lewis, Wash. The Army awarded her a Green to Gold Scholarship that sent her to college to become an officer. She earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Pacific Lutheran University. “I became a registered nurse and an Army officer,” she said.
Nurse in two combat zones
Racicot was stationed in Germany on a hospital surgical floor taking care of wounded soldiers from Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. Hurricane Katrina took her to New Orleans in 2005 and deployment with the Army’s 21st Combat Support Hospital (CSH). She returned to Germany briefly then was deployed with the 21st CSH to Iraq for 12 months in 2006-2007.
She completed trauma training at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, a Level 1 Trauma Center and part of the U.S. Army Medical Command. She was deployed to Afghanistan for nine months with a Forward Surgical Team, working in tents near combat zones.
Racicot worked through rocket and mortar attacks, often sleeping in the trauma bay with a radio in hand. “There are times when you are scared, but the crazy thing is you’re more scared for your patients,” she said. “You’re more anxious to save patients’ lives. That’s the most important thing.” She did ground patrols, not routine for a nurse, meeting Afghan citizens and helping out in orphanages.
Thirteen years after saying good-bye to her family, Racicot returned to Albuquerque to get a master’s degree at the University of New Mexico and become a nurse practitioner. “I loved what I was doing but knew I needed to continue my education,” she said. She graduated from UNM in May 2012 and joined Sandia as a contractor eight months later.
Colleague AnnaMarie DeCoste said Racicot is enthusiastic about patient care and eager to learn as a healthcare provider. “She not only cares about patients but equally cares about her community,” DeCoste said. “Michelle is a young woman who wants to make a difference and she is definitely making a difference in our community.”
Sandia National Laboratories is a multi-program laboratory operated by Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin company, for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. With main facilities in Albuquerque, N.M., and Livermore, Calif., Sandia has major R&D responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.
Sandia news media contact: Nancy Salem, email@example.com, (505) 844-2739