Fighting the horrors of war
Doctor Christmas: Houston surgeon steps in to give military doctors a holidaybreak
Is there such a thing as a Christmas medical miracle? Retired United States Army Col. John Holcomb, M.D. is making the idea a reality by spending his Christmas holiday in Germany so physicians at a military hospital can spend time with their families back in the United States.
"It's extremely satisfying to be working in the military again," he told CultureMap on a telephone call from the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Ramstein, Germany.
"It's also sobering seeing the grievous injuries," Holcomb added. "The patterns have really changed from Iraq. I'm observing a lot more amputations."
Holcomb is a professor surgery at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and sees patients at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, but since Dec. 11, he has been filling in for American surgeons in Germany. He began working as a doctor in the military in 1993 during American involvement in Somalia.
"The injuries there weren't that different from what I'm seeing, except now they're much more frequent," he said "I definitely have a different perspective having worked in the civic world."
Earlier in his career, Holcomb served as the commander of the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research at the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio. He arrived at the Texas Medical center in 1999, where he stayed for three years, and returned again two and a half years ago. Six months ago, he applied for the Senior Visiting Surgeon Program, which is administered by the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma.
Incidentally, he was instrumental in launching the program when he was originally on active duty.
"We've brought in patients almost daily, mostly from Afghanistan," Holcomb said. "I've seen between 15 and 20 since I've been here. After surgery, the patients are flown back to the U.S. within one or two days. The Air Force is doing a great job on that."
The benevolent surgeon will be returning to Houston on Sunday, reuniting with his wife, who also holds a faculty position at UT-Health, and two kids. Holcomb and his family relish their Bellaire neighborhood, where his children can walk to their elementary school.
"It's great having that small town feel, but then plenty to do in the city," he said.