“If there is something good about the wars, it’s the fact that you’re way better doctors, and nurses, et cetera, than you would have been had we not had these wars. I think the advances in medicine were remarkable. People said that I would not be alive if I was hit five years earlier than I was.”
More than 100 medical residents, interns and fellows graduated from 35 different programs with Madigan Army Medical Center’s Graduate Medical Education June 8 at the American Lake Conference Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Colonel Michael Place, Madigan commander, drew applause as he offered some of the performance achievements of the class of 2018. Each year, everyone in training takes in-service exams. Madigan’s first time pass rate is 97 percent, while the national average is 84 percent.
Place started with that statistic and took pleasure in detailing more.
“A grand total of 16 of our residents are in the top 1 percent in the country, while statistically we would not expect more than three or maybe four (residents),” Place said. “Of those 16 (taking their in-service exams this year), five are graduating today.”
Place had those five — Majors Kevin Kniery and Noel Dunn and Captains Stephen Woo, Christian Horn, Alex Koo — stand and receive applause.
Bob Woodruff, a reporter with ABC-TV, provided the graduation address. At the graduation ceremony, Woodruff told the story of his own injury following a roadside bomb blast in Iraq, early treatment by military medical professionals and his recovery.
He marveled at the care he received from the medics, surgeons, nurses and helicopter pilots who often put themselves in harm’s way to care for the wounded.
The afternoon before the ceremony, Woodruff met with Col. (Dr.) Imad Haque, a surgeon and the deputy director of the Charles A. Andersen Simulation Center at Madigan. Haque tended to Woodruff some 12 years prior when he was in a coma following the roadside blast that left him severely wounded.
Haque was the attending physician on duty while Woodruff was in the intensive care unit at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany following medical evacuation from Iraq. Haque is clear his care was minimal. He visited Woodruff, checking on his condition during the overnight shift.
When Haque and Woodruff discussed their brief time together, Haque had details Woodruff, 12 years after the event, still didn’t know. Haque confirmed Woodruff was virtually unrecognizable and that he did, in fact, have a tag on his chest.
Woodruff thought is said “expected,” indicating that he was expected to die. Haque said, “The term used is ‘expectant,’ but yes.”
When asked how many people were likely involved with Woodruff’s care, from point of injury to Bethesda Naval Hospital back stateside, Haque could only guess “hundreds.” That was just the first 72 hours of Woodruff’s journey to recovery.
That is why he, having no military involvement himself otherwise, seems so at home talking with an Army surgeon. He and Haque exchanged details of locales and battles with mutual ease.
Woodruff’s experience and his continued engagement with the military community made him a clear choice for keynote speaker.
“I think Mr. Woodruff being the speaker is very special,” said Penny Preston, the supervisor of Madigan’s Graduate Medical Education program. “He had a relevant story to tell about what our graduates will do when they get out.”
During the ceremony, Woodruff respected the knowledge in the room by repeatedly starting parts of his story with phrases like, “You know medicine, so you know what aphasia is.” He also expressed a belief that he was lucky, all things considered.
“If there is something good about the wars, it’s the fact that you’re way better doctors, and nurses, et cetera, than you would have been had we not had these wars,” Woodruff said. “I think the advances in medicine were remarkable. People said that I would not be alive if I was hit five years earlier than I was.”
Woodruff, his wife and brother have established a foundation to help those who return home needing support to recover from injuries like his.
“We need the civilian world to be engaged in trying to do everything they can for those who have served our country,” he said.
Following his remarks, Woodruff assisted Place, Command Sgt. Maj. Mark Bivins and departmental representatives in handing out 11 awards prior to the graduates receiving their diplomas and turning their attention to their first duty stations on their journeys as military medical professionals.