FORWARD OPERATING BASE SABIT QADAM, Afghanistan – Navy Lt. Jonathan T. Lau, battalion surgeon, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, was awarded the U.S. Central Command Joint Theater Trauma System Ditch Medicine Award at Forward Operating Base Sabit Qadam, Jan. 31.
Lau earned the award, which recognizes excellence in tactical combat casualty care, for his stand-out dedication to his patients’ treatment and his detailed documentation in his Tactical Combat Casualty Care After Action Reports, said Army Maj. John Robinson, pre-hospital director serving with the Joint Theater Trauma System. These reports are a means for the providers to record in detail their patient’s combat casualty evaluation, management and observations after they have been treated and transported.
The Ditch Medicine Award is presented to the surgeon who stands out amongst their peers throughout Afghanistan in their casualty care and after action reports. Lau’s efforts and the quality of care he gave his patients resulted in saving approximately 100 lives, said Robinson.
“It is a very humbling award, and I accept it on behalf of my sailors at the Battalion Aid Station,” said Lau, a 29-year-old native of Whittier, Calif.
Lau, who is on his first deployment, credited his corpsmen as the main reason he received the award.
“Without the hard work and dedication of my fellow sailors, this wouldn’t have been achievable,” said Lau.
As their deployment progresses, the BAS continues to care for many patients, from coalition forces to Afghan locals, treating injuries ranging from gunshot wounds to multiple amputations.
Lau, and his team of corpsmen at the BAS have the greatest opportunity to help save the lives of patients, said Robinson, a native of San Antonio. Most of the casualties in Helmand province occur in Sangin, where the Afghan National Army and Afghan Uniformed Police are frequently engaging the enemy. Since Lau and his medical team are the closest aid station in the area, they have the greatest opportunity to treat patients until the causalities can be transported to Camp Bastion or another trauma hospital for further medical care.
When someone is wounded on the battlefield, they are first transported to the ANA’s brigade aid station where the ANA medical doctors assess the casualty. If they don’t have the resources to treat the patient, they send them to the BAS, where Lau and his corpsmen will work diligently to sustain and care for the patient.
“It is a very rewarding feeling to help someone who is sick or wounded,” said Lau. “After we receive the call on the radio, it’s time to focus and ultimately save someone’s life.”
Lau added he joined the Navy as a physician for the opportunity to help people.
With the level of care Lau provides the casualties, it is easy to tell he works hard to help them, said Robinson.
Not only does he document all the treatments he gives to his patients, but he records recommendations for the next surgeon to review. When they are transported to another trauma center, Lau doesn’t stop after the patients leave; he continues to genuinely care for the patients and follows up with them even after they are no longer his responsibility.
“If there is anyone who deserves the award, it is him,” said Robinson. “I have watched Lau and his sailors work on patients and it’s awe inspiring to see the way they handle the wounded.”
Lau said that while the award means very much to him, he doesn’t feel it is an individual award, but rather the result of a team effort.
“I have the best medical team I could ask for,” said Lau. “These guys impress me, and we push ourselves every day to learn and improve on how to treat combat trauma patients.”