Military ophthalmologist returns from voluntary tour in Iraq

March 20, 2006

Lt. Col. Scott D. Barnes, MD, of the Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, NC, recently returned from a 4-month voluntary tour in Iraq. As a theater ophthalmology consultant with the 86th Combat Support Hospital, one of the three busiest trauma centers in the world, Dr. Barnes served on the frontline of providing ophthalmic care.

Lt. Col. Scott D. Barnes, MD, of the Womack Army Medical Center, Fort Bragg, NC, recently returned from a 4-month voluntary tour in Iraq. As a theater ophthalmology consultant with the 86th Combat Support Hospital, one of the three busiest trauma centers in the world, Dr. Barnes served on the frontline of providing ophthalmic care.

Common ocular injuries ranged from corneal abrasions to lid lacerations to penetrating trauma, often the result of shrapnel and improvised explosive devices.

The experience provided Dr. Barnes with a first-hand look at the state of surgical conditions in Iraq. Teams of physicians and specialists worked in tandem to provide not only triage and emergency treatment, but high-tech specialized care as well.

Dr. Barnes said the level of care for troops isn't one of just "fix and patch them up and get them on to somebody who'll take care of them."

"We have definitive care there, which is a different concept," he said in an interview with Ophthalmology Times. "We need this to save lives."

He added that soldiers' loved ones would be reassured "if they could see and understand what kind of quality of care they have over there."

While in Iraq, Dr. Barnes often turned to e-mail as a means of dealing with the pressures of working in a real-life "MASH" unit while at the same time communicating with family and friends. Little did he know that his poignant messages would be inadvertently forwarded to hundreds of people, many of them children, who in turn responded by sending care packages to the troops.