USU alumnus, faculty provide medical relief in Ukraine

  • Published
  • By Claire Pak
  • Uniformed Services University
On May 27, 2022, a surgical team led by retired U.S. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Warren Dorlac, a Uniformed Services University alumnus and associate professor of Surgery, arrived in Lviv, Ukraine, to begin a volunteer mission supporting Ukraine’s civilian Emergency Medical Clinical Hospital. Dorlac’s team joined an existing team of volunteer surgeons deployed by the Global Surgical Medical Support Group, a non-profit organization that sends volunteer surgeons and physicians to disaster and conflict zones around the world. Their program provides visiting surgeons training in combat casualty care, and sends volunteer combat surgeons to work directly with Ukrainian clinicians and caregivers.

“As a military surgeon, I have seen the worst that humanity can do, but I have also been fortunate enough to see the best. It is a privilege to be part of this life-saving mission serving the brave people of Ukraine.”

– U.S. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Warren Dorlac, retired
Dorlac, a recognized expert in trauma surgery and trauma care, was uniquely qualified to lead the team. A 1989 USU F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine graduate, he served for 26 years as an Air Force surgeon, specializing in general, emergency, and trauma surgery. He was responsible for overseeing care of wounded and injured service members while as chief of trauma and trauma medical director at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Later, Dorlac directed the U.S. Central Command’s Joint Theater Trauma System, where he led trauma care units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He eventually served as trauma consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General. He has also published research on trauma-relevant topics, and worked as a consultant and advisor to U.S. allies seeking to establish their own military trauma care programs.

Dorlac’s team began its work immediately upon arrival in Ukraine, starting with an assessment, which quickly identified a need for telehealth resources and microvascular surgical instruments. Those items were subsequently received and put in place in the clinic.

Within their first few days in Ukraine, the team evaluated conditions, offered recommendations, and delivered lectures and training on topics including end points of resuscitation and use of ultrasound in trauma and critical care. The team also helped with efforts to develop a whole blood program for hemorrhagic shock management and improve infection control measures. According to Dorlac, emergency medicine is not a dedicated specialty in Ukraine. The Lviv emergency hospital staff that the team assisted includes trauma and general surgeons, thoracic surgeons, vascular surgeons, pediatric surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists/intensivists, and surgical and critical care nurses. The caseload included “typical combat wounds - extensive burns, complex fractures, nerve injuries, soft tissue loss, and wounds and amputations,” said Dorlac.

Dorlac was accompanied on the Ukraine mission by a distinguished team of medical professionals including military trauma surgeon and USU Surgery department faculty member Air Force Col. (Dr.) Jay Johannigman, renowned burn surgeon Dr. William Hickerson, and surgical physician assistant Kelley Thompson. With their work in Ukraine, Dorlac, Johannigman and the other surgical team members continue the tradition of U.S. military medical aid for conflict victims around the world, a tradition interwoven throughout USU’s entire 50-year history, beginning with Dr. Rich.

“As a military surgeon, I have seen the worst that humanity can do, but I have also been fortunate enough to see the best,” said Dorlac, writing from Lviv. “It is a privilege to be part of this life-saving mission serving the brave people of Ukraine.”