Wartime heroes are not only titles carried by soldiers. Synonymous with blood and injuries, wars give rise to battered personnel. Typically, where there are those wounded and in need of medical attention, there would surely be doctors.

Here are three of such doctors, who served in the battlefield and tended to those in need, while changing the scene altogether.

1. The Father of Battlefield Medicine


Dr Jonathan Letterman, the Father of Battlefield Medicine. Photo credit: Civil War Trust
Dr Jonathan Letterman, the Father of Battlefield Medicine. Photo credit: Civil War Trust

Dr Jonathan Letterman played a big role in the 1860s American Civil War. He was the son of a surgeon – and following his father’s footsteps, he became an army surgeon in the 1850s. He was assigned to various military campaigns before being assigned to the Army of Potomac in the Civil War, and thereafter holding the title major as the medical director of the whole army.

It was during the start of the Civil War that he realised the inefficiency of removing the wounded from the battle scene. In one battle, it would take more than a week to evacuate the wounded, causing unnecessary deaths to those who could have benefited from prompt treatment. The drivers and stretcher-bearers were untrained and unfit for the pressures of war, leaving Dr Letterman overwhelmed with casualties.

Dr Letterman then established the very first Ambulance Corps, an entity made up of non-medical personnel; but were trained and supervised by the army doctors to evacuate wounded soldiers in an efficient manner. He also introduced the concept of triage for treatment of the casualties.

New ambulance wagons were well-equipped and within time, the Ambulance Corps was able to remove personnel in a timely fashion. In the battle of Gettysburg during the war, 14,000 casualties were removed after three days under Dr Letterman’s new system. It was this quantifiable result that earned him the title Father of Battlefield Medicine.

2. The World War II centenarian doctor


Dr Hinohara, the centenarian doctor who began his career during World War II. Photo credit: Reuters
Dr Hinohara, the centenarian doctor who began his career during World War II. Photo credit: Reuters

The world recently lost a remarkable man, Dr Shigeaki Hinohara, who died at the age of 105. The centenarian was ardently known as Japan’s national treasure among his colleagues. He is highly regarded for his contributions to medicine and the community.

Prior to his death, he was the head of five foundations and also the president of St Luke’s International Hospital in Tokyo. He continued to see patients into his last days and offered them advice on how to live well.

Dr Hinohara came into the picture by beginning his career as doctor in World War II. He was then serving at St Luke’s in 1940s. He would tirelessly treat the injured during the fire bombings that destroyed large parts of Tokyo.

In 1954, he introduced Japan’s system of comprehensive annual medical check-ups, called the human dry-dock, which highly attributes to Japan’s longevity. In the 1990s, when he became director of St Luke’s, he had the hospital fitted with oxygen tubes to cater for mass casualties should an earthquake hit Tokyo. The following year, the hospital was able to cater for the injured in a gas attack, thanks to Dr Hinohara’s forward thinking.

He later became a well-known figure on Japan’s TV, advocating an active social life well into old age. Also through his bestselling book, he would encourage others to have more fun in their lives and to do away with strict rules about eating and sleeping, which he considered tiring to the body unnecessarily.

3. Doctor to the Afghan locals


Dr Wee Teck Young, regarded as the local doctor who has been serving in Afghanistan for over a decade. Photo credit: Straits Times
Dr Wee Teck Young, regarded as the local doctor who has been serving in Afghanistan for over a decade. Photo credit: Straits Times

Singaporean Dr Wee Teck Young has been nicknamed ‘Hakim’ by the locals of Afghanistan – considering him to be one of theirs. Calling the war-torn Afghanistan home since his move more than a decade ago, the 48-year-old doctor has uplifted victims of the war through many of his humanitarian programmes.

When a patient brought a picture of two NGO members in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border to his private practice in Singapore, Dr Wee packed his bags and it became the start of his adventure in a foreign land.

Since the devastating September 11 incident in 2001, Afghanistan has not been free from attacks by Taliban, ISIS and other militant groups. Through his healthcare work, he started noticing other avenues to improve such as education and community development.

In 2005, he set up A Journey To Smile, which was later renamed Afghan Peace Volunteers (APV). APV aims to create non-violent relationships for a world without war and has established many initiatives to help women, the illiterate and street kids. Some initiatives span out beyond Afghanistan, garnering many humanitarian awards in its wake including the International Pfeffer Peace Awards in 2012. MIMS


Read more:
Medical heroes: Treading beyond the ordinary
Medical icons of Singapore: Dr Benjamin Henry Sheares
In conversation: Dr Tan T’zu Jen on taking medical volunteering to the next level

Sources:
https://featherfoster.wordpress.com/2014/12/07/dr-jonathan-letterman-and-civil-war-medicine/
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40647996
https://www.civilwar.org/learn/biographies/jonathan-letterman
http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/it-changed-my-life-singaporean-doctor-spends-over-10-years-in-war-torn-afghanistan
https://www.civilwar.org/learn/biographies/jonathan-letterman