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This holiday season, Matthew Smolin, M.D., a cardiologist with Sutherland Cardiology Clinic, has a greater appreciation for the blessings of home and the United States of America after recently serving in Iraq. Dr. Smolin, a Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves, was called to duty August 19 and spent nine weeks in Iraq at the Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s home town.
“It was a challenge practicing internal medicine rather than my specialty which is cardiology,” said Dr. Smolin. “I had to deal with a lot of medical issues that I had not treated for over 20 years.”
As Chief of Professional Services, Dr. Smolin conducted morning rounds, filed census reports, planned and supervised training for medics and nurses, and served as an internist treating patients. He describes the team of physicians he worked with as fantastic. “The doctors I deployed with came from different states with different backgrounds and were all highly motivated to do the best job possible caring for the troops. Patient care was a real team effort.”
Iraq’s climate is harsh and inhospitable. Dr. Smolin describes where he was stationed as very hot, very dry, very dusty, and very flat. One sandstorm that hit blew dust and fine sand into every building including the hospital and his room. Visibility was about 20 yards. “The Army is an impressive organization that is able to do a difficult job in virtually any part of the world. The logistics of supporting the troops 7,000 miles away are amazing.”
Dr. Smolin says he’s proud to have contributed to the safety of our country through his service in Iraq. While he didn’t see any trauma patients, he was there ready to care for any soldier who needed his expertise. Dr. Smolin did treat patients with minor illnesses, kidney stones, and infections. If left untreated, these illnesses would have decreased a soldier’s fighting strength.
After spending time in a warzone, Dr. Smolin simply states, “The blessings of home are almost overwhelming. Sitting on the couch with my wife, my children, and my dogs, watching a movie. Who could ask for more?”