Medicine on the battlefield

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Michael Reno
  • 377th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
Medicine changes out in the field and during his first deployment, Maj. (Dr.) Shawn Baker saw the changes firsthand while in Afghanistan. Major Baker recently shared his experiences with battlefield medicine with the medical community at The University of New Mexico Hospital.

Major Baker has been assigned to orthopedics in the 377th Medical Group since he arrived at Kirtland AFB in 2006. Prior to coming to Kirtland AFB, Major Baker worked as a missileer at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyo., for five years before attending medical school at Texas Tech University and going through orthopedic training.

Major Baker served in Afghanistan from January 2007 to May 2007. During his time there, he had a caseload of 311 operations and did 657 different procedures while supporting seven forward operating bases. The major had multiple patients with missing limbs due to land mines and suicide bombers and said he was surprised at the near complete lack of medical resources that the local population had.

Major Baker said while serving in Afghanistan he found battlefield medicine rewarding because of the lack of insurance pre-approvals and paperwork involved with stateside routine care that both patients and providers find frustrating. The severity of injuries surprised the major, but he said he found it to be a valuable educational experience.

"The severity of injuries was so dramatic that many times we were doing essentially life-saving procedures. The overall volume was very high and was a great trauma learning experience," Major Baker said.

The Army supplied a hospital which he used for his operations. The hospital was set-up to where 4 operations can happen at the same time. The team also had unlimited access to the operating rooms.

While growing up, Major Baker said he had always wanted to be a doctor and found himself drawn to orthopedics because it is a fun field and because his background is very sports-oriented. The major was a semi-professional rugby player in New Zealand and competed nationally in powerlifting. He said it is rewarding to see patients improve rather quickly.