Vanderbilt partnership helps keep military surgeons sharp when not deployed

Special Reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – U.S. military general surgeons have struggled to stay combat-ready while stateside in recent years. A decrease in emergency procedures performed at military hospitals has contributed to the growing number of doctors not meeting the military’s requirements. Two surgeons are committed to changing the trend and Vanderbilt plays a major role.

“It’s my personal proudest thing I’ve been involved with throughout my entire career,” Dr. Alex Jahangir said. That’s saying a lot coming from the Director of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Division of Orthopedic Trauma and Executive Medical Director for the Center for Trauma, Burn, and Emergency Surgery.

“I immigrated to this country. I’ve had a lot of friends that have served in the military, and to have the ability to help my country, means a lot,” Jahangir said.

He’s solving the problem with the help of one of his military friends Army Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Stinner, an active duty orthopedic trauma surgeon stationed at Fort Campbell. Together the two have created their own battle plan partnering America’s warriors with civilian frontline heroes to help combat a growing issue in the military.

“One of the challenges,” Stinner explains, “is that if we find ourselves in a deployed environment we’re expected to take care essentially of life, limb, or eyesight. When we’re performing medicine stateside, it’s often a different level of care we’re providing. It can often be that we’re underprepared for the job we’re expected to do when we’re downrange.”

A study published in JAMA Surgery in October 2021 highlights this issue. It found the proportion of military general surgeons meeting the knowledge, skills, and abilities metric readiness threshold, set by the Defense Health Agency, decreased from about 17% in 2015 to about 10% in 2019.

“They don’t see the level of trauma that we see every day at a level 1 trauma center,” said Dr. Jahangir, “I take care of shooting victims multiple times a week.”

By creating a civilian-military partnership, active duty medical staff receive consistent exposure either with a permanent duty assignment at Vandy or a 2-week rotation quarterly. “We now have four active-duty surgeons here at Vanderbilt who are working alongside us day in and day out taking care of the people of Middle Tennessee,” Jahangir said.

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The partnership has seen such success, it’s expanded to other facilities across the country and has grown to include medics, techs, and LPNs. “We are growing rapidly into one of the largest, and as Dr. Jahangir and I both feel, the best military/civilian partnership that we have to offer in the U.S.,” LTC Stinner said.

Keeping our military sharp for when duty calls.

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