News: Surgeon helps critical care skills training during WAREX
Story by Sgt. Jon Soles
FORT MCCOY, Wis. – Lt. Col. Michael Yaffe was a trauma surgeon, medical researcher and college professor when he took on a new role – an Army doctor trained to provide critical care to wounded Soldiers.
Yaffe, deputy commander of clinical services at the 399th Combat Support Hospital, 804th Medical Brigade,for Warrior Exercise 86-14-02 (WAREX), said he is using his medical skills to help train medics and nurses to treat traumatic injuries.
WAREX is a large-scale multi-component collective training exercise designed to prepare Army and National Guard units for deployment. It includes nearly 5,000 Soldiers from more than 60 units from 30 states and Puerto Rico.
In addition to his Reserve career, Yaffe is a surgeon at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. Also, he is a professor of biology and bio-engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Yaffe’s path to a medical career was sparked when he broke both legs as a child. As a result, he developed a passion for helping people who were injured. What followed was an academic drive that led Yaffe to become a medical doctor and researcher. He earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering at Cornell University and graduated medical school at Case Western Reserve University. He also earned a PhD at Case Western.
Yaffe completed his internship and residency at Harvard Medical School and University Hospitals of Cleveland. Yaffe’s medical career took an unexpected, but not unwelcome, turn after an encounter with ROCT cadets at MIT.
“A group of ROTC students asked me if I would talk to them about how to take care of patients in an emergency, and I sort of fell in love with the idea of being a Soldier,” Yaffe said. “As a professor at MIT, I took four years of ROTC and received my commission at age 51.”
Yaffe said getting his commission was one of the proudest days of his life. Hereceived training from the U.S. Army Medical Department and at Fort Sam Houston, supplementing his civilian training and experience helping trauma patients.
Much of the Army training Yaffe received focused on critical care for mass casualties. On April 15, 2013, a terrorist bomb hidden in a backpack exploded during the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds. Yaffe has not deployed, but he said his training in Army Medicine helped him treat the Boston bombing victims, many of whom had injuries similar to those sustained by Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“After the bombing, I was glad that I had Army training,” Yaffe said. “A lot of the lessons we learned in Iraq and Afghanistan helped save lives.”
But Yaffe was not the only Soldier who helped save people in the aftermath of the tragic bombing. National Guardsmen marching with ruck sacks in the Boston Marathon, to honor fallen Soldiers, provided combat casualty care right out of the Combat Life Saver course.
“A lot of the patients I treated for traumatic injuries already had a tourniquet applied and it made the difference between life and death for a lot of patients.”
During a combat deployment, wounded Soldiers are often saved in a combat support hospital. Yaffe said his skills and training are best suited to helping save the Soldiers with critical injuries.
“The real skill set I bring to the Army is critical care,” Yaffe said.
At WAREX, Yaffe is bringing medical knowledge and surgical skills to the combat support hospital, helping Army doctors, nurses and medics in their mission to be ready to save the lives of critically wounded Soldiers. Yaffe said he has also discovered the close bonds of Army doctors, nurses and medics who are on the front lines of helping save the lives of injures Soldiers, so they can return home to their loved ones.
“Personally, it is an honor to work with these Soldiers,” Yaffe said. “I can’t tell you how blessed I am to work with these colleagues in uniform.”