Mountain View, CA - November 4, 2011 - Tej Singh, MD, of Mountain View, CA, has become the first vascular surgeon from the Bay Area to serve as a volunteer in a unique program to treat wounded soldiers transported from Iraq and Afghanistan to the U.S. Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany.
Underwritten by the Red Cross and organized by the Society for Vascular Surgery four years ago to address a critical shortage of vascular surgeons in the military, the program selects volunteers for two-week rotations at LRMC, the largest hospital in the world outside of the United States. Since its inception, over 70 surgeons have completed rotations, with Singh being the 73rd to serve.
"This war marks a new era in combat," Singh said, "and it has created a huge demand for skilled vascular surgeons. While we've come a long way in terms of protective gear for infantry, with body suits that protect their torso and heads and allow them to survive horrific trauma, we cannot protect their arms and legs. The limb injuries are horrendous."
"The whole experience - from immediate injury to transport, definitive care, and return to the States - is streamlined to provide the best care for our military," said Singh, who serves as Clinical Director of Vascular Surgery at El Camino Hospital and Chief of Vascular Surgery at Palo Alto Foundation Medical Group. "If the military can get them to Landstuhl, the soldiers have a 98 percent chance of surviving and being transported back to the U.S. for comprehensive treatment."
The teamwork and focus of the LMRC team is phenomenal, Singh says. "It redefines the concept of 'patient care,'" he says. "Everybody runs--not walks--in order to get the task at hand completed. The dedication, gratitude and teamwork concept at LRMC are second to none."
As a LRMC medical team member, Dr. Singh not only contributed his much-needed surgical skills, but also educated staff on vascular topics, including holding classes for the vascular nurses using curriculum developed for nurse training at El Camino Hospital.
Singh says he was awed by the lack of complaining from soldiers whose lives would never be the same due to their injuries. "They were thanking us for helping them, and all I could think of was the sacrifice they had made to serve our country," Singh said. "Plus, the surgeons and staff are the most loyal Americans you could ever imagine. LRMC is a very special place and I've gained a great deal of respect for US military medical care. They taught me much more than I could teach them."
Dr. Singh's volunteer service at LRMC extended from Oct. 15-30, 2011, and during that time he worked on 14 soldiers. As a Level 1 Trauma Center, LRMC receives as many as 20 wounded soldiers per week at peak times, and has treated more than 64,000 since 2001. The center also provides medical care for the nearly 50,000 families of civilian contractors who work in and around Landstuhl.
It was retired U.S. Army Col. David Gillespie of the Office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General and professor of surgery at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., who asked his fellow Society of Vascular Surgery members to share their medical expertise as volunteer surgeons at LRMC. They agreed and there has been a waiting list ever since.
Singh put his own application in a year and a half ago, and learned he had been selected for the October time slot this past spring. He was the first-ever volunteer selected from the Bay Area. "Most of the surgeons, staff and soldiers are from other areas of the country," Singh says. "It's almost odd to see another Californian. I hope, however, that I can help change that now. This was a life-altering experience and I will never view our military in the same way again. I have a new appreciation for what they sacrifice for our country."
About the Society for Vascular Surgery
The Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) is a not-for-profit professional medical society, composed primarily of vascular surgeons, that seeks to advance excellence and innovation in vascular health through education, advocacy, research, and public awareness. SVS is the United States advocate for 3,500 specialty-trained vascular surgeons and other medical professionals who are dedicated to the prevention and cure of vascular disease. Visit its Web site at www.VascularWeb.org and follow SVS on Facebook and Twitter.