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William H. Pearce, MD Collaborates with the United States Military by Participating in the Senior Visiting Surgeon Program

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April 3, 2008

Chicago -

William H. Pearce, MD

The United States has a rich history of collaboration between civilian and military surgeons.  Especially in times of war, the collaboration has brought about many changes in the practice of medicine including profound advances in civilian medicine and fundamental changes in the operation and structure of military medical units.   

The Senior Visiting Surgeon Program was established by the American Association for the Surgery of Trauma in conjunction with the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma.  According to the article "Military-Civilian Collaboration in Trauma Care and the Senior Visiting Surgeon Program" in the January 27, 2007 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, "The global objective of this program is to establish scientific exchange during 2-to-4-week tours at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany, between the leaders in civilian trauma care in the United States and experienced military clinicians. This program allows civilian trauma surgeons to participate in the care of injured soldiers by performing surgical procedures and directing intensive care; they also contribute to education at the center through lectures, serve as scientific mentors, and provide expert commentary during performance-improvement activities."[1]

The Senior Visiting Surgeon Program was initially designed to bring civilian and military surgeons together for one basic, but very important reason - the expert trauma experience of the civilian trauma surgeon.  On a daily basis, especially in urban areas, civilian trauma surgeons treat traumatic injuries from motor vehicle accidents to gun shot wounds.  On the other hand, military surgeons in times of peace primarily provide non-trauma care to retired soldiers and their spouses at Veterans Affairs hospitals.  When the United States launched its attack on Iraq the need for mentorship between the two surgeon groups became a matter of life and death for our soldiers.  

William H. Pearce, MD is the chief of Vascular Surgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, associate director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, surgical director of the Center for Vascular Disease, and the Violet R. and Charles A. Baldwin Professor of Surgery at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.  He is recognized, both nationally and internationally, for his efforts in research, training, education, patient care, and advocacy.  

In the fall of 2005, Dr. Pearce began working with military surgeons to establish a program for vascular surgeons similar to the Senior Visiting Surgeon Program.  After spending two weeks at Walter Reed Army Medical Center operating, rounding, and caring for patients of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, his goal was achieved.  With the help of the Society of Vascular Surgery (SVS), a rotating program for vascular surgeons was established.  
In addition to his time spent at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Dr. Pearce also recently (January 7-18, 2008) traveled to Germany to participate in the Senior Visiting Surgeon Program at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center to care for wounded soldiers.  During his time at Landstuhl, Dr. Pearce performed surgery on injured soldiers and helped establish clinical research studies.  

"I am amazed at the magnitude and multiplicity of the wounds that our soldiers receive, especially to the arms and legs as their body armor does not protect their extremities.  The use of the electronic medical record by the military is extremely helpful as you prepare to receive soldiers with these catastrophic injuries.  Knowing the type and extent of injury and the care received to that injury prior to going into surgery greatly improves the outcomes for that soldier," stated Dr. Pearce.

"I was pleased to donate my time and honored to be able to give back to the United States military.  My time at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center was a wonderful experience.  I was very impressed by the skill of the military surgeons and the high morale and bravery of our troops."  


1. N Engl J Med. 2007 Dec 27;357(26):2723-7.

Last UpdateDecember 2, 2011