Saluting our Gator docs
By Christine Boatwright
Ed Wood, MD ’60
U.S. Air Force flight surgeon Ed Wood, MD ’60, was on his first flight when enemy fire grounded his plane.
The transport plane was carrying Irish troops from Dublin, Ireland to the Congo in 1961, and Wood was responsible of the physical welfare of five planes’ worth of soldiers. Enemy fire damaged two engines but miraculously did not injure any passengers.
Wood also faced a potentially perilous incident when he was serving in Vietnam. While walking toward a pit latrine, Wood tripped over a man crouching near the camp. Taking the man for a guard, Wood, who was 6-feet, 2-inches and at least 180 pounds at the time, began apologizing because he thought he had injured the man. One of Wood’s fellow soldiers ran up, pointed out that they didn’t have a guard for the latrine and took off running after the fleeing infiltrator.
“It’s a wonder I didn’t get killed with all my foolishness as a young Air Force officer,” Wood said. “I probably survived because I didn’t realize how dangerous it was.”
Before his 24-year military career, Wood was a member of UF College of Medicine’s inaugural graduating class, though he nearly missed his opportunity due to a low grade point average and distractions from his involvement with fraternity life.
“My low point was that I got a D one semester in organic chemistry. I was good at cramming for exams, and I got by somehow, but I learned I couldn’t cram for organic chemistry,” Wood said.
At the advice of his father, Wood set up a meeting with founding dean George Harrell, MD.
“I told him I was down in the dumps, saying I got this D. There was a long pause. He was sitting there, leaning back in his chair. Then he said, ‘Well, you passed it, didn’t you?’” Wood said. “That man gave me such a kick in the rear, such a boost.”
Wood managed to raise his GPA to a respectable 3.7, which helped earn him a spot in the first medical school class.
“The greatest thing I learned from medical school is that if you’re taking courses and training, not to do it by yourself,” he said. “I knew I needed the help of others and thought maybe I could help others.”
Wood decided to join the military after interning at Grady Hospital in Atlanta for a year.
“I was losing about 15 to 20 pounds and never getting any sleep, so I decided to join the Air Force because I needed to rest,” he said with a laugh.
Wood’s military career began at Donaldson Air Force Base in Greenville, S.C., and concluded at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, where he was chief of medicine in cardiology.
He then returned to Colorado where two of his three children were living. His oldest son, an Air Force Academy graduate, was pursuing his own military career.
After a three-year stint in private practice, Wood opened a small clinic in Colorado Springs as a branch of the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center in 1987. He retired in 2002 after 42 years of practicing medicine.
Wood’s father instilled a pride for the military in his son. His father, who was a medical doctor in Lake Worth, Fla., enlisted as a young man and served in both World Wars.
“The military was big for him, and he was hoping I would come back to Lake Worth and practice with him after I went through medical school. Instead, I went off and stayed in the Air Force for 24 years,” Wood said.
“His background led me both to medicine and the military,” he added. “Through my father, I have always loved the military and still do.”
Aaron Saguil, MD ’99
When a 100-foot, Chinook helicopter crashed from mechanical failure in Afghanistan, the U.S. Army physician on call at the base NATO hospital received a 4 a.m. wake-up call.
Twelve people died either on scene or in transit to the hospital, and 11 were evacuated for medical care. The injured survivors were on their way to Aaron Saguil, MD ’99, when he took his post at the medical care unit.
“Not too long after, I received five severely injured people simultaneously, and I was responsible for organizing the medical response,” Saguil said.
An all-call was sounded to alert any medical teams within close proximity, and help began to pour in.
“An Australian team came in at a dead run, and an American team from down the flightline came to help us out,” Saguil said.
The international support continued to fall under Saguil’s direction, including the Canadian hospital team, a British flight team, a Dutch team, a Romanian and a “couple of Kiwis” from New Zealand.
“My military training has given me the ability to be calm under fire and in critical situations,” Saguil said. “Army training made it such that I can plug and play no matter what the circumstances. At the time, I was an American physician working in a multicultural hospital and was able to pick up without missing a beat—even in a trauma situation.”
The 11 people evacuated from the wreckage survived, which Saguil attributed to “truly a team effort.”
Before his 15-month deployment to Afghanistan, Saguil, a Hudson, Fla., native, began his military career through the Army ROTC. Florida State University accepted Saguil into its PIMS program, where he completed his first year of medical school before finishing his education at the UF College of Medicine.
Saguil, who, with his wife, Beth, has two sons, soon realized his passion for family medicine, and after his 1999 graduation, completed his three-year residency before deploying to Grafenwoehr, Germany in 2002 to serve as a primary care doctor and medical director.
When Saguil later deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan, he was the chief of primary care with a NATO hospital run by Canadian forces.
“In addition to doing traditional family medicine stuff, like taking care of colds, chronic conditions, and muscle and joint injuries, I also did trauma care,” Saguil said. “I delivered a baby, helped implement vaccination programs, did outreach to local nationals and taught local national physicians and physician assistants.
“Fifteen months was a long time to be overseas, but we did good work,” he added.
Saguil has served 14 years in the Army and had the “opportunity to reinvent myself with every job I’ve taken on,” he said. His most recent transformation was to become assistant dean of recruitment and admissions at the F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine at the Uniformed Services University.
In terms of recruitment, Saguil said medical students are ideal candidates for military service.
“They’ve already chosen to serve humanity, to serve fellow men and women. If it’s only about the money, there are certainly easier ways to make more money,” Saguil said.
“Medicine is going to require a lot of hours. You’re going to want to spend time with your family or doing other things, and you’re not going to be able to do so because your pager goes off,” he said. “You can’t do it for the money alone; you have to do it because you love to serve.”
Saguil recommended that physicians need to follow their life’s calling, and his calling asked him to serve his country.
“On Veterans Day, you have to remember what it stands for in the first place. It’s emotional,” Saguil said. “Every time we go to church on Veterans Day weekend, I always feel a little bit like an imposter. I’m standing next to someone who went to Vietnam or Korea or World War II, where it was much more hostile. I feel like I don’t hold a candle to those people.”
Nicole Smail, MD ’00
Atlanta mom Nicole Smail, MD ’00, has her hands full caring for her 10-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter, as well as the family’s new 8-week-old Labrador puppy. Her life changed drastically six years ago when she decided to leave active duty in the Air Force to become a private practice pediatrician and full-time mom.
Smail decided to join the military when she was recruited for the Air Force’s Health Professional Scholarship Program before starting medical school in Florida State University’s Program in Medical Sciences. After completing her first year, she transferred to the UF College of Medicine for the duration of her education. Her husband, Paul Smail, DVM ’00, was attending the UF College of Veterinary Medicine at the same time.
“I really liked the idea of serving my country and am proud of the time I spent in the military,” Smail said. “Then I became a mom and it was harder to meet the requirements of an active Air Force person.”
Smail classified as inactive ready reserve while she was attending classes. Her first active-duty experience was during her fourth-year rotations and her residency program at Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Miss. She then became an attending pediatrician at Eglin Air Force Base in Valparaiso, Fla.
“My role was taking care of the children of active duty or retired people,” Smail said. “Our mission was to make sure when people were deployed they didn’t have to worry about the health of their children back home.”
While Smail never deployed overseas, she continued to care for the children of those far from home.
“Even pediatricians can be deployed, and I knew some who were,” Smail said. “They end up staffing hospital facilities mostly to care for injured children in the area of conflict.”
Smail served in the Air Force for seven years before retiring and joining an Atlanta pediatrics practice, Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. P.A.
“My training included a full scope of practice that would allow me to provide comprehensive pediatric care even if I was stationed in an area of the world without full ancillary and subspecialty support,” she said.
Today, Smail continues to practice medicine and raise her children, which includes attending a Veterans Day tribute every year at their elementary school.
“It’s so cute; they think it’s for me. They think it’s our holiday,” Smail said with a laugh. “They’re so proud and want to stand on stage with me so they can say, ‘My mom’s a veteran.’”
Edmund “Ned” Clark, MD ’04
Psychiatrist Edmund “Ned” Clark, MD ’04, met his future wife, Lakshmi Gopal, MD ’03, during his third year at the UF College of Medicine. After becoming engaged, the couple waited four years to walk down the aisle.
“We wanted to wait until we were geographically located in the same place,” Clark said.
That time came in 2006 when Gopal accepted a gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Maryland’s National Institutes of Health campus, which was located across the street from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., where Clark was in his second year of psychiatry residency.
While the couple married during their time in Bethesda, they weren’t located in the same place geographically for long.
Before medical school, Clark completed an endocrinology graduate school program in Colorado, but realized he wanted to take a different path. He joined the Peace Corps to “do something different,” and spent two years serving in Kenya, where he discovered a love of medicine. He took the MCAT in Nairobi, and eventually interviewed at the UF College of Medicine.
Clark qualified for the U.S. Navy Health Professions Scholarship Program, and once UF offered him a place in the class of 2004, he quickly accepted.
“It was the best school available. As soon as I interviewed at UF on a Friday, the following Monday they called and offered me a spot,” Clark said. “Eventually I met my wife, so it worked out really well.”
After medical school, however, Clark owed eight years of service to the Navy in exchange for his education.
During his four-year residency at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Clark saw patients from all branches of the military. He became one of the program’s chief residents while working in a “central hub for people coming back from the war in Iraq,” he said. “I treated patients with traumatic brain injuries and (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from all different branches.”
“I can remember some of the most difficult rotations were in the ICU with guys who had received very significant head wounds, and I was dealing with the families,” he added.
On graduating from residency, Clark transferred to Pensacola, but within a week had deployment orders for Iraq. He immediately started combat skills training at Fort Dix in New Jersey.
“It was a month of learning things no psychiatrist should be expecting to be doing in Iraq. You would know things had gotten pretty bad if it’s me behind the machine gun in up-armored Humvee,” he said with a laugh.
Luckily, he said, his skills with a 50-caliber machine gun were never required.
Clark served for seven months at Liberty Combat Stress Control in Iraq in support of an Army deployment.
“Iraq was unique in itself. I had to take care of guys as they were being exposed to extraordinarily challenging events,” Clark said. “We’d take care of guys having acute reactions to combat stressors. But often, they were also having to deal with distant stressors back home over which they had little control.”
After returning from Iraq, Clark worked at Naval Hospital Pensacola before being deployed again. In 2010, he left for seven months to manage the mental health needs of prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camps in Cuba.
“We provided safe, humane, legal and transparent care for the detainees,” Clark said. “After a concerning history of events at Abu Ghraib, our job was to demonstrate to ourselves and the world that we could provide the best possible medical care to enemy combatants.”
Soon after Cuba, Clark hung up his boots and donned civilian clothes, but made the transition by taking a federal physician position at the Naval Hospital in Pensacola, treating many of the same patients he had treated as a Naval officer.
“It was a good transition,” he said. “I wasn’t in a position to do 20 years in the military. I needed to be able to settle down.”
Clark and his wife now have a 14-month-old daughter, Leela, and Gopal is pregnant with the couple’s second child.
While his days in the military are over, Clark called his experience “an adventure unlike any other.”
“People are always trying to thank me for my service, but, in my opinion, it was an honor to serve,” Clark said. “It’s not something you intend people to thank you for. Instead, it’s something for which I have to be personally thankful.”
Faculty feature: Patrick Duff, MD
UF College of Medicine Associate Dean for Student Affairs
Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology
As a young man entering college in the early 1960s, Patrick Duff, MD, knew he faced certain expectations.
The Vietnam War was in full turmoil, and the draft continually pulled young men into the fray.
“At that time, it was much more acceptable and expected that people who were going to college would participate in the ROTC program,” said Duff, who joined the U.S. Army ROTC at Harvard University.
As a junior, the Army awarded Duff the Army Health Profession Scholarship, which paid for his final two years of undergraduate, graduate school and medical school. When he finished school, Duff owed the Army 20 years of service in return for his education.
The Vietnam War was almost over when Duff graduated from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 1974 and began his residency training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in obstetrics and gynecology.
“When I began my residency training at Walter Reed, the Vietnam War was coming to a close,” Duff said. “Many soldiers injured in that war were treated at Walter Reed. However, unlike today, few of the casualties were women, and we did not typically care for them in the department of obstetrics and gynecology.”
By the time he finished his residency training, the world was at peace, Duff said.
Duff completed a high-risk obstetric fellowship at the University of Texas in San Antonio before becoming a faculty member at major teaching facilities, including Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco and Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash.
“It was sort of ironic. When I retired in 1989, it was a year before the first Gulf War. I had finished my time and retired. My time in the military bridged the time between Vietnam and the Iraq War,” Duff said.
Duff and his wife, Judith, were married when he graduated from college 44 years ago, and three of their four children were delivered while he was in the military.
Today, Duff continues his lifelong career of teaching as a UF College of Medicine professor of obstetrics and gynecology, as well as associate dean for student affairs.
“I retired as a colonel, and looked for jobs in the civilian academic medicine community,” Duff said. “I looked at several, and Florida was my top choice. We came here in 1989, and have not ever wanted to leave.”