Saturday, May 25, 2013

Sometimes We Forget - A Memorial Day Weekend Tribute to Military Doctors

Things come from civilian medicine, and then we take it into the cauldron of the war and focus it, test it and evaluate it, and then use it many, many, many more times than the civilians have. And then whatever spits out in the end is better.

Army Col. John Holcomb, MD.,commander of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research, 2007

Preface: This first appeared as a medinnovation blog on May 31, 2010.

On this Memorial Day, it is time to remember, celebrate, and commemorate military doctors.

We sometimes forget military doctors have served in every American war since 1775.

We sometimes forget lessons learned and innovations developed by military doctors carry over to civilian life in operating rooms, trauma, and rehabilitation centers across the land.

We sometimes forget doctors in the Spanish-American war learned mosquitoes cause yellow fever, in World War I that transfusions saved lives, in World War II that penicillin and sulfa drugs were indispensable for treating infections, in Korea and Vietnam that prompt helicopter evacuations reduced death tolls, and in Iraq and Afghanistan that hemorrhage can be stopped on the spot by new types of bandages and drugs.

We sometimes forget that military medicine in times of war is very intense because of new treatment methods, recognition that time passed before treatment is the enemy of life. For the military physicians, there’s no wasted moments, no wasted movements, military treatment is very, very focused.

We sometimes forget we have a medical school, the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda devoted to educating and training doctors for military duty in peace and war.

We sometimes forget that 80% of our civilian doctors spent part of their education and training in Veterans Hospitals affiliated with teaching centers.

We sometimes forget our military hospitals – Walter Reed in Washington, over 190 Veterans Hospitals comprising the largest hospital system in the world, and military clinics q43 strewn all across the U.S. and over the world. Sometimes these hospitals even exist in the sky, during flights from Iraq to Germany.

We sometimes forget that the famed comedy series MASH (Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals) was based on a book MASH: A Novel About Three Army Doctors, was written by an Army surgeon, Richard Hooker, MD. With death and chaos of war, sometimes comes humor. But risk also comes, especially in wars without front lines. Doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel in Balad in northern Iraq are ordered to carry firearms.

We sometimes forget that the managerial and leaderships experiences gained in the military carry over into civilian life. In the armed services, doctors learn to organize, to treat populations of patients, to train paraprofessionals, to function and work as teams, and to improvise and innovate.

So let us not forget on this day our heroes – military doctors.

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