1st Lt. Torri Ishihara,
C Company (Med), 29th Brigade Support Battalion
HONOLULU – It is 6:45 a.m. on Wednesday and the team and I are waiting in the Oceanside lobby of Tripler Army Medical Center. We are there for one reason and her name is Mary Grace Bagalso.
Bagalso greets us with a big smile and open arms. She is ready to welcome us into her world, let us take pictures and video her, and answer all of our questions. From the first interaction to the last goodbye, I could tell why Bagalso was chosen to be a part of something positive and inspirational.
Bagalso is one of six women who will be featured in the film, “The Women and the Waves 2,” directed and produced by Heather Hudson. Bagalso has been a nurse anesthetist at TAMC since August 2011. She recently commissioned into the 1984th United States Army Hospital Detachment, Hawaii, U.S. Army Reserve in March 2015 and is serving as a 1st lieutenant.
She also is a renowned surfer who has won competition after competition and been featured in surfing magazines.
Hudson hopes her documentary inspires young women to make a positive difference in the world by making good choices. She wants young women to watch her film and say, “I can do that. I can make a difference and do something positive.” She feels Bagalso will convey that message because she is a positive role model who gives back to people and the planet.
“Mary is a ray of light, really positive, fun, super smart, and brave — I admire that,” Hudson said.
Both of Bagalso’s parents are nurses, so it was natural that she followed in their footsteps. Bagalso started surfing when she was in nursing school.
“Surfing was like going to church for me. It was my down time and relief from nursing school. It was a time to refocus and rejuvenate,” she said. She felt that nursing and surfing balanced her life out.
“It’s good to have balance in your life,” Bagalso added. “You need to have something to care about other than surfing.”
Bagalso worked as a nurse for 12 years before she became a nurse anesthetist. A friend who worked as a nurse anesthetist at the University of San Diego Medical Center encouraged her to pursue the career. Bagalso had knee surgery done at the same facility and her friend allowed her to see what anesthesia was all about during her time there. It was a stimulating experience that convinced her to become a nurse anesthetist.
Bagalso feels that it is a privilege to work at TAMC and said she enjoys “taking care of Soldiers and families. They are really appreciative of health care.”
Her experience at TAMC and the fact that her dad is a retired Coast Guard member influenced her decision to join the U.S. Army Reserves.
“I enjoy that my dad has to salute me now,” she said.
To Bagalso, TAMC offers a unique hospital work experience. Patients and staff come and go because it is a military community constantly in motion.
Bagalso found that it is important to take time to get to know people. She knows that if she doesn’t take the time to talk, listen and smile, the time will pass her by.
For this reason, Bagalso is well liked.
“She is a great teacher,” said Capt. Alex Passmore, a student pursuing his doctorate of nurse anesthesia practice. “She has high expectations and I don’t want to let her down. I always learn something new.”
How does he feel knowing that she is also an incredible surfer?
“It’s cool. Everyone has a life outside of the hospital,” he said.
Bagalso’s favorite place to surf is in the Mentawai Islands of Indonesia, but she also stressed that “nothing is like Hawaii.”
Her advice to young surfers?
“It’s good to love more than one thing,” she said. “Do not give up. You should try all kinds of surfing — don’t limit yourself and open your eyes to everything.
“That does not just apply to surfing,” she added, “but in all aspects of life.”
Bagalso, the well-rounded individual, proves to be a well-qualified role model for young adults by inspiring young surfers and nurses to live a well-balanced life.
But Hudson adds this about Bagalso, “You’ve got to see Mary surf! ‘The Women and the Waves 2’ will showcase that as well as her commitment to Tripler and the Army.”