Late Breaking News
Joining Reserve at 60, Dermatologist Wins Awards for Army Skin Cancer Screenings
An Administrative Role
Gilbert says he “just wanted to serve, no matter what the capacity,” and, as it turned out, his first role when he was deployed to Afghanistan was not so much clinical as administrative. “My title was brigade surgeon; I was in charge of medical care for the 10,000 soldiers in my brigade,” he explains. That covered all fields of medicine, he continues — including preventive medicine, which involved activities such as making sure that drinking water was not contaminated.
He did have the opportunity to do clinical work, however, and while he was deployed first got the idea to provide skin cancer screenings.
“I went to the general and said I’d like to do the screenings. He said it was a good idea, and off we went,” Gilbert recalls. Screening several hundred soldiers, he was able to pick up about 15 pre-cancers.
“I usually ran the clinics on Sundays; I worked 14-hour days, seven days a week” in a war zone, he says, adding, “It was just something I felt I had to do; I wanted to serve my country.”
The “Brighter Days” program, he notes, has been in operation for about five years and was started by his friend and colleague Donald Richey, MD, in Chico, CA.
“I meet with cancer patients and spend about hour explaining to them what they need to do for skin care and how it relates to what they do when they’re having chemotherapy,” he explains. “It’s very rewarding and very helpful for the patient.”
Gilbert has long-term plans for his service; he has signed a contract that extends until 2018.
“They have a two-year program, and I’d be done with it, but that didn’t seem quite long enough for me,” he says. “I love putting on my uniform.”
He is still active in his practice and drills one weekend a month. Now, he plans to go to Air Assault School, where he’s looking forward to learning how to rappel out of helicopters, explaining, “It’s kind of next on my list.”
As for those feelings of guilt, they have completely disappeared, Gilbert says. “It’s a good feeling to have.”