Editor-in-Chief, Chester ‘Trip’ Buckenmaier III, MD, COL, MC, USA.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. —Martin Luther King Jr , 1929–1968
A popular news story in the closing months of 2010 concerned the engine room fire and stranding of 3,300 passengers on board the Carnival Splendor off the Pacific coast of Mexico. The news media buzzed with information concerning the drifting cruise ship with vacationers having to contend with nonfunctioning toilets, no air conditioning, electricity, or phones, and the culinary indignity of being offered Spam® to eat.
At one point, as I watched the drama being played out in the nightly news I heard the passengers described as being in “survival mode.” I believe I laughed out loud. Certainly I am not insensitive to the plight of those vacationers and cruise ship staff whose lives had been dealt a particularly bad set of circumstances. “Survival mode” though? Hardly. No one was killed or injured, no one was cold or hungry, and the ship was not sinking. The passengers on the Titanic were in “survival mode.”
The media hype detailing this event of mass inconvenience got me thinking about the people federal medicine serves. I euphemistically imagined veteran servicemembers and families on the Carnival Splendor not realizing their vacation had ended in the hours following the stranding of the ship. I believe the average military family’s gauge for measuring hardship employs a more rigorous scale than most others in our society.
In my years of caring for veterans and their families, I have heard some truly harrowing stories of hardship. Our patients know the family-destroying pain of months of separation. They can describe the taste of congealed “spaghetti with meat sauce” from a MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) eaten under a poncho in the rain and mud of a foreign country. They know the feel of 120 °F in the shade with no air conditioning for miles. Many understand the gut wrenching stress accompanying the need to continue with the mission despite enemy fire and the overwhelming desire to go into “survival mode.” Too many know the horrors of war and the pain of wounds to both the body and mind. Our patients and families routinely tend to the health, safety, and comfort of the country before they do the same for themselves. More
As the first decade of the 21st century passes into history, Outlook 2011 provides a forum for federal medicine’s leadership to examine this past decade of unprecedented change and provide us their vision of the future.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE JANUARY ISSUE OF U.S. MEDICINE
Mild Brain Trauma Could Have Links to Alzheimer's BETHESDA, MD—It was two years ago that Ira Katz, MD, PhD, then chief of VA’s mental health services, told researchers at the VISN 20 Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center (MIRECC) in Portland, OR, that they should begin focusing some of their research on TBI. More
DoD Expands Smoking Cessation Efforts WASHINGTON, DC—DoD health officials will increase the number of servicemembers and their families it helps quit smoking. “We are focusing on getting people the resources that they need to help them quit,” said US Public Health Service Cmdr Aileen Buckler, MD, population health physician analyst at TRICARE. Please read this article and participate in this month's online opinion poll about globalization and disease.More
Military Challenged to Provide Far-Forward Mental Health Care BETHESDA, MD—For a handful of military mental health providers on the front lines, treating combat stress and trauma is an everyday occurrence. The military has begun to realize that the advice and care they furnish can often prevent acute battlefield trauma from becoming a chronic stateside problem. More