Surgical Fellow Serves in Iraq

The Air Force sent its first surgical fellow, Maj. Lisa Mihora, in summer 2008 to a war zone for a surgical rotation, paving the way for more to follow, according to a Dec. 19 release. Mihora, a board-certified ophthalmologist in the second year of a two-year fellowship at the San Antonio Military Medical Center-South, spent six weeks at the Air Force theater hospital at Joint Base Balad, Iraq, where she had first-hand exposure to dealing with head and neck traumas in concert with experienced surgeons. In the past, the Air Force has not deployed medical and surgical residents and fellows to combat zones for hands-on training due to concerns over work-hour restrictions, safety, and preparedness for the intense experience. “Yet, we realized that some of the best experience a military surgeon can receive is in a combat zone,” said Col. David Holck, chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at SAMMC-South. Mihora performed more than 130 procedures while at Balad. “Most injuries were from explosive devices, so I am now more comfortable treating these injuries on soldiers when they return stateside,” she explained. SAMMC is the first military facility to initiate this type of program for surgical trainees. (Lackland report by Sue Campbell)