Grand Rounds is highlighting the good work done by so many nurses, doctors and allied healthcare professionals. I'm providing the following post as a simple personal introduction. Just remember that in all of your neighborhoods in all of your home states, I'm sure that there is a community member who is doing their best as they serve in the military. Military healthcare providers are there for them if the need should ever arise. I'm fortunate and humbled to get to work in such esteemed society.
I am a pediatric surgeon in Texas. I work at a military hospital on an Air Force Base, and essentially do head to toe general surgery for the children of active duty military servicemembers.
I joined the military in 1990. I was graduating college and looking for a way to pay for medical school. I found out that the military offered scholarships for doctors. When I did the math, it wasn't a big financial benefit, but the chance to give back something to my country appealed to me.
The year before I had spent a semester in Spain. I was amazed to learn that all my Spanish friends had mandatory service of one year in the military. Our country does so much for its citizens that it only seemed right to me that I should give something back.
I trained to become a general surgeon and pediatric surgeon at civilian hospitals, and after my training was done, I began a payback period of six years. Shortly after, our country invaded Iraq. It became our hospital's job to staff a combat support hospital north of Baghdad in a city called Balad. Our group of surgeons takes turns deploying to Balad and taking care of patients here. At our hospital, we treat injured US troops, coalition forces, Iraqi troops, enemy prisoners of war, and civilians injured in warfare. We treat men and women; adults and children. Even though I treat exclusively children when I am in Texas, my training allows me to operate on injuredpatients of all ages.
Our hospital started out as a series of tents linked by corridors and tunnels. It is amazing to me that in this primitive setting we were able to deliver all the specialties and services of a modern metropolitan hospital. We are staffed by several hundred providers and treat thousands of patients each month. Recently we moved into a new brick and mortar facility that allows us to continue our work in a setting with better lighting, more room for patients and less dust blowing through like it would in the tents.
It is difficult to see the devastating injuries suffered in wartime day after day. Especially heartbreaking are the children who are burned, maimed and killed. They are just innocent bystandars to the conflict. In spite of the sadness of this work, it is immediately rewarding to be here and most of the time be able to save a life. I hope that soon the war will be over and our combat support hospital will be out of business.
After returning from my first tour of duty in Iraq, I looked for a way to continue helping injured troops. My wife and I wrote a book "Made a Difference for That One: A Surgeon's Letters Home from Iraq". Through proceeds from the book, we have been able to donate nearly one thousand dollars to Fisher House, an organization that serves as a home away from home for the families of injured troops undergoing treatment at military hospitals. It is amazing to see how much good they do for our healing heros.
Now that I am back in Iraq, I am doing my best to help out the injured who come through our hospital doors. I miss my wife and sons terribly and am so eager to get home to them. Until I do, I hope that I can make a positive difference in a few lives here.