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University of Texas at Austin nursing faculty member to lead nursing volunteers on hospital ship set for tsunami-hit areas

William T. Bester of The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing has been recruited by Project HOPE to head the nursing volunteers on a hospital ship headed for the tsunami-affected region along the South Asia coastlines.

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AUSTIN, Texas—William T. Bester of The University of Texas at Austin School of Nursing has been recruited by Project HOPE to head the nursing volunteers on a hospital ship headed for the tsunami-affected region along the South Asia coastlines.

Bester, a retired brigadier general and first male chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, joined the School of Nursing faculty in fall 2004. He has been given a three-month, paid leave of absence by the university to serve as nurse executive on this humanitarian mission.

The U.S. Navy is providing the USNS Mercy hospital ship and crew, which left for Singapore last week from San Diego. The ship is expected to arrive in the tsunami-stricken region in February. Many health professional organizations, including Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, the Emergency Nurses Association, American Nurses Association, American Medical Association, and the American College of Physicians, have also agreed to provide physicians and nurses as Project HOPE volunteers.

Also making up the senior leadership team is Ret. Gen. Harold Timboe, now an assistant vice president and faculty member at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Timboe’s last military post before coming to San Antonio was commander of Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the North Atlantic Regional Medical Command.

Bester went to Washington, D.C., last week to meet withmembers of Project HOPE. He will meet the Mercy either in port or be flown onto the ship by helicopter.

“Bill is a credit to his profession as a nurse and to the university,” said Dr. Dolores Sands, dean of the School of Nursing. “All of us are extremely proud that he will be part of this medical relief team and wish him God speed. We were fortunate to have recruited Bill, and will miss him during these few months.”

In addition to serving as chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, Bester also has had assignments at the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash., the U.S. Army Hospital in Okinawa, Japan and hospitals at Fort Meade and Fort Benjamin Harrison, among others. In 1995, Bester was selected as advance party commander to deploy the first hospital into the Balkans in support of Operation Joint Endeavor. He also has received numerous awards, including the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal.

For more information contact: Nancy Neff, Office of Public Affairs, 512-471-6504.