"This was just an amazing opportunity," said Dr. Tej Singh, clinical director of vascular surgery at El Camino. Landstuhl is the largest American hospital outside of the country and it serves as the evacuation and treatment center for all U.S. soldiers and civilians injured in overseas conflict zones
Singh said it was an "honor" to use his abilities as a vascular surgeon to help Americans wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"I participated in the operating room and educated the staff on vascular topics," Singh said. Over the course of his stay, Singh delivered 10 lectures, or "modules," on vascular nursing. "The nurses there were so appreciative that I brought the training modules," he said, noting that there had been a dearth of continuing education on the topic of vascular nursing at the Landstuhl medical center.
"But in the end," Singh said, "I think they taught me more about myself as a doctor."
Singh, who also serves as the director of the Vascular Center at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, said he was enriched by the strong sense of teamwork and dedication to the mission that he encountered at Landstuhl. Singh was particularly impressed with the efficiency of the military's evacuation and treatment protocol.
"It's an amazing system that the military has to save lives," Singh said. "To see that coordination and commitment first-hand was amazing."
He said that the Army is able to transport even gravely wounded soldiers from a battlefield in Afghanistan to a local trauma center, on to Landstuhl and finally back to Bethesda, Md. in just a few days time.
Any civilian nurse, doctor or surgeon would benefit from spending time in such an efficient and fast-paced environment, Singh said. Going through medical training and then practicing in the states, it is easy for doctors to lose track of the importance of coordination in healthcare, he said.
He said he has returned from Germany with a renewed commitment to teamwork.
"This trip confirmed all along that a team approach is the best thing for our patients," Singh said. "When you have a great system and a great team working together the results are always the best."
Singh said that medical professionals — and surgeons in particular — often have egos that can get in the way of their performance. At Landstuhl, however, there was a sense that everyone was working toward a greater cause — a philosophy he attributed to military philosophy.
"There's no time for bickering or complaining — pushing your own agenda forward," he said. "Every hospital should have that, but you'd be surprised how many don't."
Singh said he hopes he will be able to transplant that Spartan philosophy to his staff and colleagues at El Camino and the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. If he can, he said, all of the hospital's patients will be better served as a result.