Texas Biomed pulling in talented veterans using Department of Defense work placement program

13-year Army veteran now works in lab doing research for COVID vaccines

SAN ANTONIO – Staff Sgt. Jacqueline Poinsette was in the Army for almost 13 years, rising through the ranks as a lab technician.

“When we deploy it’s blood work and saving lives. Out here it’s working in hospitals, working in outlying clinics, drawing blood, taking samples and processing them so that doctors have the information they need to treat patients,” Poinsette said.

When she got out of the military, she was scared she wouldn’t be able to continue that type of work.

“Especially in the sciences and in health care. You just don’t know what the needs are going to be when that time comes,” she said.

So she utilized SkillBridge, a Department of Defense program that helps align service members with civilian jobs.

It landed her at Texas Biomedical Research Institute’s Maximum Containment Contract Research Lab, working with renowned researcher and professor Dr. Ricardo Carrion Jr.

“Developing vaccines and therapies for more deadly agents like Ebola virus, Marburg virus, anthrax plague and most recently, the coronavirus COVID 19,” Dr. Carrion said.

His team contributed research that helped develop the Pfizer and Novavax COVID vaccines.

He said Poinsette’s unique army experiences are invaluable to the team.

“The training that she got in the army. She’s introducing some innovations to our group to make us be more efficient. She had bench skills. So essentially, she was able to immediately contribute and has become a leader within our group,” Carrion said.

He hopes more resources will go into placing veterans in the right jobs so they too can continue to serve.

“I don’t know how many times you get to sit down at work and say you worked with the hero, but we have a hero here at Texas Biomed,” Carrion said.

“I think service is just in the blood. And I think as a scientific community member. It’s what we want to do. Making the world a better and healthier place for all of us,” Poinsette said.

About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.