Successful Military / Civilian Medical Partnership Enters its 5th Year Supporting Troops

Society for Vascular Surgery

Society for Vascular SurgeryCHICAGO – “The Society for Vascular Surgery® (SVS) is proud to be entering its fifth year of continuous two-week rotations of volunteer vascular surgeons at the U.S. Army’s Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) in Germany,” said 2011-2012 SVS President Richard Cambia, MD, of Massachusetts General Hospital. “Our members are helping to repair damaged arteries and veins of military personnel who are fighting the Global War on Terror.”

Since September 2007, 76 civilian SVS members have volunteered at America’s largest hospital outside its borders. LRMC is a state-of-the-art Level I Trauma Center that provides medical care for coalition forces from 48 countries who are fighting “down range” in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine, and civilian medical staff at LRMC have treated more than 64,000 Wounded Warriors since 2001. Most patients remain at LRMC for three to five days before being transported to other military medical facilities. The survival rate at LRMC is 99.5 percent.

Additionally, LRMC provides medical care for the more than 245,000 U.S. military personnel and their families stationed in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

Yet the Army has only 24 active duty vascular surgeons. These medical officers are stationed at combat hospitals and stateside US military facilities. LRMC does not have permanently assigned military vascular or cardiothoracic surgeons although there is often a need for these specialties. This void created an opportunity for SVS members.

“I asked fellow SVS members to support the troops and serve as two-week volunteer vascular surgeons at LRMC,” said David Gillespie COL (ret), MC, USA, Chief and Professor, Division of Vascular Surgery, University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, NY. “The Army agreed to provide overseas transportation and base housing.”

With the details finalized, Dr. Ruth L. Bush of Texas A & M University became the first SVS volunteer vascular surgeon at LRMC. “Since September 2007, SVS members have donated their time and talents,” said Dr. Gillespie. “The surgeons find the experience rewarding. Many return year-after-year. There’s a waiting list for surgeons wanting to volunteer in 2012.”

The unique military / civilian medical collaboration is a “win-win” for the surgeons and their patients.

SVS surgeons witness military efficiency especially real-time record-keeping. “Extraordinary telecommunications make it possible for surgeons ‘down range’ to speak with staff at LRMC and hospitals in the U.S.,” said Michael Weingarten, MD, of Drexel University, Pennsylvania. “This facilitates continuity of care from point of injury.”

Likewise, it was an SVS surgeon who performed the first thoracic endovascular graft implant procedure at LRMC. Although commonly performed at civilian hospitals to repair diseased or torn aortas, the procedure had never been attempted at LRMC.

“Not only did Dr. Paul Haser of the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School possess the skill to complete the procedure but he also had the contacts at German companies to access the necessary surgical supplies,” said Col. John Cho, Commanding Officer of LRMC. “If it weren’t for our Visiting Vascular Surgeon Program with SVS, the graft procedure wouldn’t have been an option at all.”    

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 3,550 specialty-trained vascular surgeons and other medical professionals who are dedicated to the prevention and cure of vascular disease. Visit its Web site at® and follow SVS on Facebook and Twitter.