Tour gives public a look into Army medicine

Army officials offered tours of a mobile surgery unit to the public at the School of Medicine Wednesday.

Members of the West Hartford-based 947th Forward Surgical Team, who are being deployed to Iraq in early May, hosted a tour of one of their Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelter Units in Edward S. Harkness Memorial Hall. Attended by a steady stream of about 80 students, medical professionals and Army service members, the event offered the general public a chance to see the humanitarian side of the military and was preceded by a talk with General Stanley McChrystal and Frederick Lough, MD. Several students who attended said walking through the small portable shelter was an eye-opening look into Army medicine.

Many attendees were surprised by the range of people the Army works with in-country.

“We support troops and locals alike,” said Sgt. Daniel Roman, a member of the Forward Surgical Team who answered questions for the public.

Col. Benjamin Kulper, a doctor and reserve member, said the concept behind Forward Surgical Teams is to provide stabilizing care within the “golden hour,” a time period directly after trauma in which medical treatment has the highest likelihood of preventing death. Stationed between one and 10 miles from the front lines of battle, the teams are the second line of treatment for injured soldiers and civilians, after the medics who provide immediate care, said Sgt. Daniel Suzano, a nurse for the Field Surgical Team.

“The sooner you can get to anyone with any kind of trauma, the better chance they have of surviving or fully recovering,” Kulper said.

After the team stablizes a patient, Army medical staff can then peform safe transport to a hospital.

Roman said the shelter units could be assembled and fully functional within an hour and remain at full capacity for up to 72 hours without being resupplied.

Besides showcasing the technology of a mobile surgery room, several Army members highlighted the humanitarian side of the United States military’s work.

Kulper, who is a private practitioner in Warren, Ohio, joined the Army Reserve in 1986 and has since been deployed six times for about 90 days each. He said that in Afghanistan, 85 percent of his team’s patients were Afghan nationals, around half of who were under the age of 14.

“They came to us because we were the only ones who could take care of them,” he said. “It has been so great to show people that I’m from the United States, and I’m here to help.”

Many of the students who attended the talk did so because of some link to the military.

Joy Tanaka GRD ’12, who has a brother in the Air Force, said the talk was both inspiring and eye-opening.

“You hear a lot about what is happening in Afghanistan in the news, but not about the medical side,” she said. “It made me appreciate what’s going on there.”

Sarah Gross MED ’13 is the only student at Yale in the Health Professions Scholarship Program, a military program that provides tuition assistance for health care students in exchange for service in the military.

“I’m taking this route because I’m really excited about the opportunity to take care of military service members and their families,” she said, adding that service was a big component of careers in both the military and medicine.

The 947th Forward Surgical Team consists of 12 members, including surgeons, nurses, surgical technicians and medics. The team has six shelter units, each with two operating room tables, standard medical equipment and sterilized supplies.

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