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The Senior Visiting Surgeons Program: A Model for Sustained Military-Civilian Collaboration in Times of War and Peace

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The use of civilian expertise to assist the military medical corps during times of conflict is not a new concept. Perhaps, one of the most noted examples was the service of Edward D. Churchill, MD, who volunteered to serve as the chief surgical consultant in the North African and Mediterranean theaters during World War II. A colonel in the US Army, Dr. Churchill followed his deployed surgical unit from Harvard Medical School into the war zone, making major contributions to the care of the wounded, most notably in advocating for the use of whole blood for resuscitation. In addition to Churchill and DeBakey, other surgical giants who contributed to combat care during World War II included Loyal Davis, Fred Rankin, Isidor Ravdin, Robert Zollinger, Ben Eiseman, and J. Englebert Dunphy former chief of surgery at the University of California, San Francisco. For a more in-depth review of the contributions of Dr. Churchill and others, interested readers are referred to the excellent article authored by Cannon et al. The war that has engaged US troops for the past 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan is unique in American history. This prolonged war has been fought with an all-volunteer military service, including the members of the medical corps. A portion of the surgeons in theater are recent residency graduates and thus relatively inexperienced in trauma surgery. Other deployed surgeons may be reservists in the Army, Navy, or Air Force Medical Corps who have been deployed multiple times from their private or academic practices. Modern technology has brought the war into our living rooms and onto our computer screens, giving civilians a unique look at battlefield injuries. These considerations as well as many others culminated in the development of the Senior Visiting Surgeons SVS program composed primarily of civilian trauma surgeons.

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  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations
  • Medicine and Medical Research

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