45 Minutes with Pedro Oblea: Nurse Scientist at the US Army

Being the only person in a particular category is not only an honor but affirmation that it has taken considerable effort and personal sacrifice to achieve that status.

Many Filipino nurses in the USA work in mainstream hospitals and schools. Major Pedro Oblea Jr has distinguished himself as the only Filipino nurse scientist of the US Army Nurse Corps.

Pedro is a nursing alumnus of Southern Luzon State University (formerly Southern Luzon Polytechnic College) in Lucban, Quezon in the Philippines. He graduated with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 1990. From then one, he went on to carve a successful international career in his field.

US Army Major Pedro Oblea, RN, Ph.D

With a sense of historical snapshot, from 1991 to 1994, Pedro worked as a Staff Nurse (PICU) at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.

During 1996 and 1997, he filled an overseas post as Staff Nurse (SICU) at the King Khalid Military
Hospital, Hafr Al Batin, Saudi Arabia, remaining in Saudi Arabia to work in the same role at King Fahd National Guard Hospital in Riyadh.

Back in the USA, Pedro became a Nursing Supervisor at Clark Manor Convalescent Center, and worked as Staff Nurse (IMCU) at Swedish Covenant Hospital - both positions are located in Chicago, Illinois. Pedro then went on to complete his Master of Science from North Park University in Chicago. Illinois.

In 2004, Pedro commenced his US Army career as an Army Nurse (ICU) at the Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center in Fort Hood, Texas. From there, in 2005, he was deployed to Iraq in the same role at 228th Combat Support Hospital. He quotes , "Becoming a soldier was a dream come true for me. Also, being in the Army provides a stable future, as well as good retirement and health benefits. The career opportunities and the prospect of travel is also appealing."

In the pursuit of knowledge and higher qualifications, in 2014 Pedro obtained his PhD degree at the University of Arizona as a recipient of Dr. Arlene M. Putt Scholarship. His doctoral research was on "Effect of Short-term Separation on the Behavioral Health of Military Wives”.

Pedro has first-hand knowledge of what is like to be in the situation. He cites "I've been deployed twice overseas, and my wife and I are separated at least three times a year, varying from a week to 13 months. There is a lot of research about the long-term separation on depression, but there is very little about short-term separation." Pedro Oblea goes on to explain, "As far as I can remember, there’s only two research studies completed about the effects of short-term separation among military wives. First, I studied military wives separated from their active duty husbands for three months due to military training and I found no significant differences in perceived social support, resilience, perceived stress, relationship satisfaction, or depression levels relative to non-separated military wives, before and after separation. During the military wives' three months separations due to training, I discovered that the risk of depression in wives of male active duty Army officers was not significantly increased after such a separation, but depression scores were positively correlated with perceived stress scores and negatively correlated with resiliency and relationship satisfaction scores. Another study related to short-term separation was a qualitative analysis of Coast Guard wives experiencing short-term separations (4 months); it is a doctoral dissertation conducted by Dr. Finley in 2004. Her findings showed that although short-term separation was considered disruptive in family routines, it appeared to result in less loneliness and less opportunity to build-up daily stressors, and Coast Guard wives generally maintained a positive attitude toward deployment separation.

In the same year, as a PhD student at the University of Arizona, Pedro attended the Institute of Nursing Science Summer School in Switzerland. Before his trip, Pedro wasn’t sure how he would measure up against his peers. But on returning home from the five-day course that focused on developing behavioral interventions for older adults, he felt more confident than ever.

“I felt like I was ahead of my peers when it comes to my PhD education,” said Oblea, who was awarded a Think Swiss travel grant to help cover travel and accommodation costs. “For me, it was confirmation of how well-prepared I am becoming through my studies.”

Back in Fort Hood, Pedro reprised his role as Army Nurse (ICU) at the Carl R. Darnell Army Medical Center during and moved on to a Brigade Nurse post in the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

In 2008/2009, it was back to Iraq as Brigade Nurse - 27th Brigade Support Battalion, FOB Garry Owen.

Constantly on the move, Pedro became a Health Care Recruiter for the 5th Medical Recruiting Battalion in New Orleans, Louisiana followed by a stint as a Clinical Nurse (OIC) at Evans Army Community Hospital in Fort Carson, Colorado. By now it was 2013, and a posting as an Instructor at AMEDD Center and School in Fort Sam Houston in Texas provided him additional experience.

Already fulfilling his penchant for travel, Pedro is currently working as a Nurse Scientist at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. His current research is about "Behavioral Health Effects of Short-Term Separation of Military Same-Sex Couples” a follow up study of his dissertation. His research trajectory is the application of technology in behavioral health.

There is no doubt that such impressive academic achievements and a distinguished military career have provided Major Pedro Oblea Jr with a great sense of purpose and satisfaction. The US Army has certainly benefited from his expertise and willingness to serve in far away countries. It remains for him to continue his research, as it is evident that this is an arena in which he excels.