Albuquerque-based filmmaker looks at an 'Invisible' group dedicated to public health - Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque-based filmmaker looks at an ‘Invisible’ group dedicated to public health

Invisible Corps
Chris Schueler, right, sets up in Rock Creek Park with Sonya Coakley of the National Park Service. (Courtesy of Chris Schueler)

In the two years Chris Schueler did research for his latest project, the information was hefty.

Then the heavy lifting began.

He crisscrossed the country finding people to speak with about the subject.

The result is “Invisible Corps,” which will premiere at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 25, on New Mexico PBS, channel 5.1.

The Albuquerque-based filmmaker began this journey because he found out about the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service.

Schueler says while the uniformed services of the United States include the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines, the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service is the only uniformed service in the world dedicated to public health.

Its guiding principal is to “protect, promote and advance the health and safety of the nation.”

“Although invisible, they touch millions of Americans every day,” he says. “From fluoridated drinking water to an America free of malaria, the PHSCC cared for veterans before there was an Office of Veterans Affairs, and worked on water and air pollution before there was an Earth Day.”

Schueler interviewed four past surgeons general – both sides of the political spectrum – the current surgeon general, Smithsonian historians and boots on the ground officers.

Invisible Corps
Haiti relief with child USPHS Commissioned Corps officers help vaccinate children in Haiti. (Courtesy of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)

“Our script opens with a President (Barack) Obama phone call to the officers risking their lives in Liberia during the Ebola crisis,” he says. “It’s because of their hard work that the United States never had an outbreak. We had a vaccine and it saved a lot of lives.”

Schueler says the corps is doing so much work, it was difficult to integrate all of the information into a one-hour script.

“These men and women have saved lives and have done so for well over 100 years,” he says. “From giving us fresh drinking water to having food that doesn’t kill us.”

Schueler says the corps has 11 different categories, which includes veterinarians, engineers, doctors and dieticians.

“They are in 20 different federal health agencies and are the glue that holds our public health together,” he says. “Before I started this project, I didn’t know they existed.”

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