“It’s pretty hard if you think about it — you’re sitting in a vehicle in Iraq and a roadside bomb goes off. The next thing you remember is being in Germany a few days later and flying 12 hours overnight to get to Walter Reed,” Lt. Cl. Mary King ’76, M.D. says. “It’s difficult for me to see young men and women who were very productive have their lives changed.”
But, she adds, her work is very rewarding.
A soldier in the U.S. Army Reserve, King is serving a three-year tour at Walter Reed Army Medical Center’s Wounded Warrior Clinic. The facility, which opened in 2008, is dedicated to rehabilitating soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
“This is a first stop,” for wounded soldiers, King says. Most often the troops arriving directly from the battlefield suffer from concussions or post-traumatic stress disorder, or need a limb amputated.
King, who earned a degree in biology at Oswego before attending medical school, has had a practice on Long Island since the early 1990s. She was inspired to join the Reserves after 9/11.
“Sept. 11 had a big impact on Long Island,” says King. “Several of my patients lost husbands and a lot of people in town were firefighters.”
King did a tour of duty in Ramadi, Iraq, for four months in 2006. Today she and three other doctors handle a caseload of about 200 soldiers apiece at Walter Reed.
King recently received the 2010 Primary Care Manager of the Year Award from the U.S. Army Warrior Transition Command.
“You take care of the soldiers from the time they get out of [Walter Reed] to the time they medically retire or return to active duty,” King says. She likens the satisfaction she gets from watching the progress of recovering soldiers to watching a child take his or her first steps. One recent patient even completed a 10-mile footrace.
“I feel really good about it,” she says. “I would be very happy if there were no more reason for it. Being that that’s probably not going to happen, I would miss this work if it wasn’t here for me anymore.”
— Shane M. Liebler