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Geisel Student Veterans: Honoring Their Service to Country

As the Dartmouth community and the nation celebrate Veteran’s Day 2016, honoring the sacrifices that American military members make for their country, the Geisel School of Medicine is proud to recognize and thank its medical student veterans for their service in the US Armed Forces.

While the circumstances and decisions to enter the military were unique to each individual, they share a passion for defending the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, and for healing those who are injured and sick.

Below, several of our Geisel student veterans reflect on some of the most valuable lessons they learned in the military and the impact of those experiences on their path to medicine.

Michael Lauria (DC‘05, Med‘18)

mike-lauria-2-2After graduating from Dartmouth College in 2005, Michael Lauria enlisted in the Air Force, serving as a pararescueman and eventually rising to the rank of staff sergeant. Assigned to the 321 Special Tactics Squadron of the Air Force’s Special Operations Command based at RAF Mildenhall in England, he was deployed to Operation Iraqi Freedom as the primary medic assigned to a combat and rescue team.

“My experience in the special operations community offered me access to medical training in some of the nation’s most progressive academic trauma centers—the type of training that you simply don’t get as a civilian paramedic,” says Lauria.

It also challenged him to adapt first-class medicine to austere and non-permissive environments such as combat or the open ocean. “Perhaps the most important experience was being put in a position where you had to take responsibility for someone else’s life,” he says. “Circumstances often dictated that you had to quickly make decisions regarding challenging, life-saving interventions on your own.”

Lauria’s military experiences set him on the path to medicine. “When I started my military career, I wasn’t entirely convinced that medical school was the direction I wanted to take with my life,” he recalls. “As time went on, I was exposed to some truly gifted and inspiring physicians who convinced me that the hard work of school and residency was well worth it.

“Also, my love of medicine grew with every patient that I treated, every invasive procedure I performed, and every clinical concept I learned,” says Laurie, who has been a flight paramedic with the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advance Response Team (DHART) since 2012. “By the time I left the military and started working at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, my sights were set on a life as a physician.”

What was the most valuable lesson he learned during his service? “To never underestimate the unflagging power of the human spirit,” Lauria says. “We are capable of enduring tremendous hardship and persevering through unimaginable difficulty. When individuals and teams are pushed to the edge, they realize that they can accomplish amazing things that they never dreamed were possible.”

David Carluccio (Med‘19)

david-carluccio-1US Navy veteran David Carluccio (3rd class petty officer) was stationed in the Naval Special Warfare Command and Naval Amphibious Base training centers in the San Diego and Great Lakes areas from 2006-2012. He also worked as a rehabilitation specialist with amputees at Naval Balboa Medical Center in San Diego.

“The most valuable lessons I learned in the military came during basic underwater demolition training,” he says, “including the necessity of abandoning individual achievement for the sake of teamwork, and of paying attention to detail, especially in the midst of chaos.”

These lessons were painfully drilled in, Carluccio adds. “When I was injured before graduation, I had to learn an equally hard lesson—to let go of the dreams I worked so hard to achieve in order to pursue new dreams that were equally as valuable.”

During his military training, he underwent a number of surgeries to treat various injuries. “This forced me to spend a lot of time in hospitals and clinics and even more time in rehabilitation centers getting better,” says Carluccio. “During these periods, I came to have a new and deep appreciation for health care workers and the care they provide.

“Eventually, I felt like there was no place that I would rather be for the rest of my life than in the work of healing those who are injured and sick,” he says. “This combined well with my team mentality and attention to detail—so that a career in medicine seemed like an appropriate and satisfying career.”

Julie Voydik (Med‘20)

julie-voydikJulie Voydik, who served as a medic in the Army, was stationed at Fort Campbell on the Kentucky-Tennessee border. She spent a year deployed to Iraq in 2009-2010 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

“My experiences working in clinics across Iraq, particularly a level 2 trauma clinic near Baghdad—where I treated American soldiers as well as patients from Iraq, Sri Lanka, India, and other countries—sparked my interest in pursuing medicine as a career in the civilian world,” says Voydik.

While stationed near Baghdad at Camp Liberty, she participated in a program to deliver pediatric wheelchairs to disabled Iraqi children and saw first-hand the sobering array of health care challenges facing families who had survived a decade of war.

“The exposure to emergent and trauma care in an austere environment in particular, inspired my interest in emergency medicine, especially in vulnerable populations,” Voydik says. “I’m continuing to pursue this interest as a global health scholar at Geisel.”

Zachary Salas (Med‘20)

zach-salasA former Navy aviator who retired with the rank of commander, Zachary Salas served in both Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq for multiple tours.

“I flew the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet off the aircraft carriers USS John C. Stennis and USS Carl Vinson for those deployments,” says Salas, who compiled more than 65 combat missions and over 700 carrier arrested landings.

“The military has prepared me extremely well for a career as a physician by imparting infinite amounts of resiliency, self-discipline, and vast experiences in working as part of a team in fast-paced, high-stressed environments,” he says.

“I would say the single most valuable lesson I learned in the military was the incredible importance of being a part of something bigger than yourself and the immense amount of responsibility and sacrifice that accompanies that.”

Chad Lewis (Med‘20)

chad-lewis-1Sergeant Chad Lewis served in the Marine Corps from 2001-2007, enlisting a few weeks after the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, and shortly after graduating from high school. After a year of initial training, he began his career in radio communications with Marine Air Support Squadron 2 in Okinawa, Japan.

While stationed in Southeast Asia, Lewis performed joint military operations in the Philippines, South Korea, and Thailand, where he was assigned to an Air Support Liaison Team (a small group of Marines used to relay critical battlefield information in order to provide close air support to ground troops and guide artillery fire onto enemy targets).

Lewis was later stationed in Camp Lejeune, NC, where he was assigned to the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit (Special Operations Capable) and completed a combat tour in Iraq's infamous "Triangle of Death" in 2004. While in Iraq, his unit conducted stability operations throughout the Babylon Province, participated in Operation Phantom Fury, and provided security for Iraq’s first democratic elections.

After returning home in 2005, his unit was deployed on the USS Whidbey Island as part of a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force to provide relief to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, LA. For these actions, Lewis was awarded the Humanitarian Service Medal by the Department of Defense.

“The military taught me to conduct myself with professionalism, set high goals for myself, and to fully commit to a plan until those goals are achieved,” says Lewis. “I also learned to never take anything for granted and to always strive to make the most out of what I have been given.”

Ultimately, his experiences in Iraq forced him to “come face-to-face with my own mortality at a very early age,” he says. “I believe that awareness put a lot of important things into perspective for me.

“After returning home from the Marines, I went through a pretty rough period trying to readjust into civilian life,” says Lewis. “After a lot of introspection, I felt a strong desire to leave a positive impact on the world through my life’s work, and based on my interests and abilities I believed (and still do) that a career in medicine would give me the best opportunity to do that.”