In December 2002, Navy Yeoman Sabrina Logan was 3,900 miles away from the nearest U.S. state in the territory of Guam with a new baby boy — and in the midst of a typhoon.
“We lived in a high-rise, and the typhoon was so intense that rain was just pouring from the ceiling,” Sabrina recalls. “We were told to fill the bathtub with water, and we could see it swaying; that’s how much the entire building was moving. I remember thinking, ‘We’re going to die here.’ It was that scary.”
Typhoon Pongsona’s 110-mph winds destroyed more than 1,300 homes and numerous cars, roads, and power lines. Power and running water were knocked out for a full month.
“The island was completely saturated, and as days progressed, black mold started growing over everything we owned,” Sabrina says. “I remember praying, ‘God, all I want for Christmas is for the power to come back on.’”
That gift didn’t quite arrive in time for Christmas, as power was restored on New Year’s Day 2003. But Sabrina now looks back at that difficult period as just another unlikely turn in a life and career full of ultimately rewarding twists.
Enlisting results in the unexpected
When Sabrina joined the Navy in 2000, she was living in Redding, Calif. and had no idea what was in store.
“Growing up, I struggled with school,” she says. “I’m an artistic person, and probably seemed like the least likely to join the military. I had a friend joining the Navy, and she somehow managed to talk me into going with her.”
“It sounded like an adventure, and boy was it ever.”
The adventure almost ended before it began, as a homesick Sabrina immediately questioned whether she’d made the right decision. Fortunately, her recruit division commander at basic training — who Sabrina recalls as being “a big, scary lady” — talked her out of quitting.
“[The commander] sat me aside and said, ‘I know you can do this. Now, do you know that?’” Sabrina says. “She was rewiring what I had been taught growing up. Just that one tidbit of encouragement helped me suck it up, pull through and truly be thankful for the opportunity to serve my country.”
With that hurdle cleared, Sabrina went through Navy technical training and was unexpectedly stationed in Guam at its Naval telecommunications station. She welcomed her son Preston shortly after and spent the next four years serving on the island.
“Guam was considered ‘sea duty’ because it’s so isolated; it took about 24 hours total to get there by plane from California,” Sabrina says. When I stepped off the plane, it was so hot and sticky outside it took my breath away. Here it was December and I’m seeing cars fogged up because of the humidity.”
As a yeoman, Sabrina performed primarily administrative duties. After she was discharged, she was ready to be closer to her extended family and the everyday comforts of the mainland U.S. She moved to Johnson City, Tennessee, as her parents had relocated there during her Navy stint.
Back to school
Once she settled in, Sabrina was ready to give higher education a try. She’d always had an interest in health care and had volunteered at a couple of California hospitals during her teenage years, bringing flowers, food, or gifts to patients. But a negative comment she overheard had long been an obstacle to her pursuit of a career in that field.
“When I was a kid, I told my parents I wanted to be a doctor — but one of my teachers said, ‘Well, you probably need to get that out of her head,’” Sabrina remembers. “I never forgot that. And even all those years later, I was committed to proving him wrong.”
“So with financial assistance from the VA, I got my bachelor’s in nursing and my master’s in business.”
Sabrina went on to work for several years as a hospital floor nurse. Her military training helped prepare her, as there were many times a patient would be fine one moment then not breathing the next. As head nurse, Sabrina needed to stay calm, think quickly on her feet, and delegate tasks to save lives.
Serving in a different way
While she loved the responsibility of caring for patients, Sabrina’s family was expanding, and she was physically and mentally exhausted. She decided she wanted to try something new, so in 2014, Sabrina joined BlueCross as a care coordinator.
“In that role I was able to still serve patients and utilize my nursing skills but from another angle,” Sabrina says. “I was able to build trust and relationships that better served their long-term health needs, and I could still have time at home with the kids.”
In 2020, she was promoted to provider performance consultant, an internal role that works closely with provider groups in the East Tennessee region. Once again, those lessons learned in the military about teamwork and building trust have informed Sabrina’s work.
“Today, most providers see BlueCross as a valued resource,” she says. “They now know they can come to us if they need help. For example, they might request data about COPD. ‘Who are our patients who are high-risk for COPD? How can we target them and connect with them?’”
“They know we have the data and the members with that condition. We all work together now, whereas before we were siloed.”
Sabrina also oversees several BlueCross care coordinators who are embedded in primary care practices and work closely with providers and their nursing staff.
“As part of the Medical Home Partnership concept, we’re focusing not just on the condition management — for diabetes, asthma, COPD, etc. — but looking at hospital utilization, like your ERs and your inpatient stays, and how many prescriptions or what prescriptions you’re on. At the end of the day, it all benefits the member and ensures they’re getting the right care at the right time at the right place.”
Finding peace of mind in a pandemic year
With four children ages 6 to 20, Sabrina spent much of the past year at home, juggling family and career responsibilities. However, she found time to return to a hobby she’d set aside.
“I loved drawing as a kid, but around 10 years after I came out of the military, I bought a painting set on whim and realized, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” Sabrina recalls. “I got better and better, people told me I should sell it, and I wound up displaying and selling several pieces at Moyers Canvas in Johnson City. A portion of the proceeds help veterans get rehabilitated into the community.”
During a 2020 staycation with the kids, the brush made a reappearance.
“I hadn’t painted in several months, but one day I got my stuff out, sat and painted, and that was it,” Sabrina says. “That’s probably one of the best days off I had. There were no obligations. It helped tremendously to find an outlet that allowed for a mental escape for an hour or two.”
She’s now considering another return, as well — to Guam, where she hasn’t been since her military service ended.
“I want to take my son back because he was born there, and I’ve told him maybe for his 21st birthday,” Sabrina says. “From what I’ve heard, it’s totally changed.”
Sabrina’s certainly changed since that terrifying experience nearly 20 years ago. But in those moments, she found the level-headed approach that has carried her forward ever since.
“I still live by the mantra of ‘We’re going to be OK, we’ll work through this together,’” she says.
“‘Team’ defines everything for me, and the military taught me that. That’s what I was thinking with my family during that typhoon, that’s what I thought in the immediate aftermath, that’s what I thought throughout my service, and that’s what I think about the work I do with providers and care coordinators now.”
“It takes all of us to do the job.”