Demere Kasper Hess, 1999
Health Practitioner and Educator
Lieutenant Colonel Demere Kasper Hess always wanted to work in the medical field. In elementary and middle school she excelled academically, easily completing advanced placement classes in math and reading. During her junior high school years in Walpole, New Hampshire, her confidence waned. Her parents suggested she look at Vermont Academy as an alternative to the large local high school.
On the Vermont Academy campus, Demere enjoyed being challenged once again. The small class sizes, the friends she made, the inspiring teachers —all helped her self-confidence grow. And that self-confidence ended up taking her from Saxtons River to Tulane to Iraq and Qatar, then to the University of Pennsylvania, to Afghanistan, and back to Penn, before finally landing her in Washington D.C., where she joined the medical staff at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
A passion for painting led Demere to earn a studio art degree at Tulane, where she attended with an Army ROTC scholarship. One of her senior thesis paintings graces the dance studio. But medicine kept finding its way back into her life. Her grandmother had been a nurse, and Demere started thinking about earning a nursing degree as an undergraduate. She took an anatomy and physiology course in her junior year for fun but she had to wait until completing her initial commitment to the Army before pursuing that path. Demere’s full-time service as a military intelligence officer led to deployments in Iraq and Qatar. After leaving active duty she earned her BSN at the University of Pennsylvania while serving in the United States Army Reserves. She excelled at Penn, graduating Cum Laude and publishing an article on military culture and the pregnant female soldier. She credits her teachers at Vermont Academy for helping foster her thirst for knowledge, and for helping identify the best methods for her to learn.
Shortly after graduating from Penn, Demere was conducting a drill weekend and crossed paths with a soldier she knew from a past deployment. He told her about a voluntary program that allowed women to deploy with special operations teams in remote locations in Afghanistan. In particular, the program sought female soldiers with healthcare backgrounds. Afghan cultural norms don’t allow men to interact with women, and there was a large need for women’s health education and healthcare services. After a rigorous vetting process, Demere deployed to rural Afghanistan in November of 2012. She worked tirelessly to establish the Mya Neshin Comprehensive Health Center. She endorsed and lobbied for the Community Health Workers program, which trained local men and women to act as health educators and first responders while also performing limited health checkups within their villages. These workers also received emergency birth training as well as prenatal and infant training to improve maternal and infant health in villages. Her team also created a seven-part radio program that addressed health topics ranging from vaccinations to clean water and that was broadcast across multiple districts.
When the deployment ended, Demere returned to Penn where she earned a Master’s degree in nursing. She now works as a nurse practitioner on the faculty of The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine at Sibley Memorial Hospital. She focuses her practice on pain management and the treatment of acute and uncontrolled chronic pain. She’s married and has started a family. And she still paints, although she switched from oils to the instant gratification provided by watercolors. She also continues to serve in the United States Army Reserves, where she was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 2019.
We are proud to award Lt. Col. Demere Kasper Hess the Florence R. Sabin Class of 1889 Distinguished Alumni Award.