June 19, 2007

Stanford Medicine Examines War’s Impact on Medical Care

Is war good for health? In the face of the Iraq war casualties, the question seems ludicrous. Yet conventional wisdom has long assumed that war advances medicine. The summer issue of Stanford Medicine magazine explores this question in a special report on war's impact on medicine and health.

The report's lead story maintains that war has helped medicine in at least a few instances, for example, hastening the mass-production of antibiotics and spurring improvements in emergency medicine. Yet when Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine, takes an accounting of war's contributions in his letter to readers, he argues, "War is good for nothing."

The report offers a sampling of perspectives on war medicine, including insights from injured soldiers, doctors who've worked on the front lines, observers such as playwright Anna Deavere Smith and ABC correspondent Bob Woodruff, who was injured covering the Iraq war.

Among the articles:

• A perspective from Stanford clinical professor Dean Winslow, MD, on treating insurgents in Iraq and some of his other experiences as a flight surgeon for the Air National Guard.

• Recollections of treating patients in conflict zones from Stanford faculty and alumni including Norman Rich, MD, founding chairman of the surgery department at the training ground for most of the U.S. military's physicians -- the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences.

• Excerpts from a soon-to-be published English translation of a Viet Cong doctor's wartime diary.

• A conversation with ABC's Woodruff and his wife Lee on life after Bob's brain injury in Iraq.

• A peek at actress/playwright Anna Deavere Smith's notes on her visit to the U.S. military hospital in Germany.

• The story of one soldier's struggle with the Iraq war's signature injury -- traumatic brain injury -- and his recovery at the Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System.

• A look ahead at military medicine of the future, including an ultrasound system for combat units that would locate and cauterize internal wounds -- a device being tested for DARPA by Stanford faculty and researchers.

The magazine, including Web-only features, is available online at http://stanmed.stanford.edu/. To request the print version, call (650) 723-6911.

Stanford University Medical Center integrates research, medical education and patient care at its three institutions -- Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Hospital & Clinics and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford. For more information, please visit the Web site of the medical center's Office of Communication & Public Affairs at http://mednews.stanford.edu.