Friday, January 14, 2011

Dr. Peter Rhee, Surgeon of Giffords & Navy Veteran

Much has been said about the heroes on the day of the Tucson shooting. The surgeons, of course, have been mentioned for their quick assessment of Giffords and their expertise. However, I had not heard about Dr. Peter Rhee's vast experience as a Navy veteran till this article and it's a fascinating read.


Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, gunshot wound through her brain, was fortunate enough to be wheeled into the emergency room of a uniquely qualified surgeon: Dr. Peter Rhee, a 24-year military surgeon who has treated "hundreds and hundreds" of battlefield injuries during stints in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rhee, 49, chief of trauma at University Medical Center in Tucson, said his work in the Navy tending to injured soldiers and Marines and teaching the next generation of battlefield medical personnel unquestionably played a role in his ability to treat Giffords and direct care for the 10 other victims who began arriving in his unit Saturday morning.

"There's no doubt," he said. "I was in the Navy 24 years, and I trained to do nothing but battlefield casualty care. When I did go to Afghanistan and Iraq, I wasn't in a hospital. I was in very forward surgical units, so I was very accustomed to working with very little gear and people and personnel, very little resources, with wounds that are very different than civilian injuries," Rhee said Sunday. "Did it prepare me? I would say of course it did. And that makes it so that when we have a mass casualty of 11 people here, it's really not as bad as it can get."

Rhee said he handled "hundreds and hundreds" of battlefield injuries in two war deployments beginning in 2001. He was one of the first battlefield surgeons to be deployed to Camp Rhino, the first U.S. land base in Afghanistan, located in the remote desert about 100 miles southwest of Kandahar. In 2005, he served in Iraq.

"This doesn't compare," he said of his university hospital environs. "This is not really a mass casualty. I have all the gear and people I could possibly want. This is luxury for me. This trauma center, this is about as good as it gets."

There are so many elements to this tragedy that are exceptional. Dr. Rhee's story is another highlight, Asian-American, Navy Veteran, and Surgeon. It's amazing how through such darkness we are introduced to such light.

I am Frank Chow and I approved this message

Update: Apparently I'm behind on this, Alpha Asian and Disgrasian posted about it earlier in the week. Sorry I don't read West Coast papers as often...

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