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    Army surgeon develops reconstructive program

    Army surgeon develops reconstructive program

    Photo By Rick Emert | FORT CARSON, Colo. — Lt. Col. Owen Johnson, plastic and reconstructive surgeon,...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Fort Carson Public Affairs Office

    By Scott Prater

    Mountaineer staff

    FORT CARSON, Colo. — A few things come to mind when people think of plastic surgery. Most imagine plastic surgeons almost exclusively serve the well-to-do or celebrities hoping to maintain their youthful appearance.

    In reality, says Lt. Col. Owen Johnson, plastic surgeons can be vital for improving the lives of people who have suffered debilitating injuries, like cancer patients and wounded Soldiers.

    “I think plastic surgery is one of the most rewarding fields in surgery, just because patients go through such a tough battle, whether their injuries are related to cancer or trauma or something they were born with – that they’ve lived with all their lives, but have given them a lot of problems,” said Johnson, a double board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon at Evans Army Community Hospital. “Normally, by the time they see me, patients are kind of closing the loop on their journey, so if we can get them across the finish line with plastic surgery that’s usually the most rewarding part for me.”

    The veteran Army surgeon added that getting active-duty patients back to duty and other patients back to doing the things they enjoy is also particularly rewarding.

    “Breast cancer patients sometimes feel a loss of identity or a loss of self after their mastectomy,” he said. “But, once we get them reconstructed, their sense of being whole is restored. And, I enjoy that.”

    From a medical organization standpoint, it’s clear that EACH has benefitted from Johnson’s arrival. Col. Brandon Brown, chief of surgery at EACH, explained that having a reconstructive surgeon and staff becomes a force multiplier for both the surgery department and the hospital.

    “It’s important because it allows us to combine and offer comprehensive care for breast cancer patients,” Brown said. “We can offer immediate or delayed reconstruction for mastectomies and combine to work on other surgeries, including for skin cancer. His (Johnson’s) core services are beneficial to service members, dependents and retirees.”

    With Johnson now on staff, Brown pointed to examples of services now offered at EACH, including breast cancer reduction surgery, carpal tunnel surgery, disfiguring scar revision and migraine headache procedures, among dozens of others.

    At his last assignment, the doctor developed a plastic and reconstructive surgery program into one of the most extensive in the military. He not only created the program, but also managed to bring in additional plastic surgeons and staff.

    As Fort Bliss’ reconstructive surgical services continued to develop at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, however, Johnson had his eye on another Army installation. While nearing his permanent change of station availability, he noticed that one of the Army’s most infantry-heavy posts lacked a solid reconstructive surgery capability, so he lobbied the Army surgeon general’s office to create a plastic surgical billet at Fort Carson.

    “Colorado Springs not only has multiple infantry brigades at Fort Carson, but it also hosts the Air Force Academy and three Air Force installations,” Johnson said. “To think that such a place had no military plastic/reconstructive surgical presence is almost beyond belief. There was clearly a need here.”

    Once the slot was created, Johnson applied for the position and now has been performing surgeries at EACH since September 2019. In the meantime he hopes to develop the department in much the same way he did at Fort Bliss – by adding surgeons and staff.

    “I’ve been very busy and there’s definitely more work out there,” he said.

    It’s been a whirlwind 16-and-half year career for the former Army brat, who said he knew he would enter the medical profession from an early age.

    After earning a bachelor’s degree at Johns Hopkins University through an Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps scholarship he continued his education at the University of Virginia for medical school. Following medical school, he completed a six-year general surgery program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) in Washington, D.C., where he earned certification as a general surgeon.

    Initially, he had planned to enter the heart surgery field, but later decided to redirect his focus after observing WRAMC plastic surgeons treat Soldiers who were injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    “The people who were the busiest and had the craziest cases were the plastic surgeons,” he said. “So, when I saw all of this going on, I liked the creativity behind it. With plastic surgery, every case requires creative thinking. It’s a specialty of problem solving and concepts. And, then we apply those concepts in a variety of scenarios.”

    His first Army assignment was as chief of the General Surgery Clinic at Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. While at Bragg he deployed to Afghanistan, where he led a forward surgical team as it mobilized around forward operating bases in country. Though the deployment exposed him to several dramatic and memorable experiences – his surgical team operated in both austere and lethal environments – he relished returning to Johns Hopkins University for a three-year plastic surgery training program.

    The program proved so enlightening that he stayed an extra year at Johns Hopkins to experience a Craniomaxillofacial and Head and Neck Microsurgery Fellowship and conduct procedures on the face, head and neck that ranged from minor plastic surgery to intense reconstruction.

    Some specific cosmetic type surgeries are also offered to military associated beneficiaries, but include a fee, stipulations and requirements.

    “We also offer surgical consultations,” Johnson said. “We want people to know that if they’re contemplating plastic/reconstructive surgery and seek to do so at providers off post, we can meet with them and provide important guidance and information that can help in their decision process, so its advisable that they meet with us prior to making a decision.”

    Patients will need to speak with their primary care provider to obtain a referral for a plastic surgery consult before speaking to a surgeon at EACH.



    Date Taken: 02.03.2021
    Date Posted: 03.16.2021 16:56
    Story ID: 391543
    Location: US

    Web Views: 293
    Downloads: 0