Although this editor is not participating in the trauma care being given to the victims of the Fort Hood shooting today, as a trauma surgeon and physician who has worked for the United States Army and has taken care of solidiers who are readying for deployment,Â I amÂ following closely the developments being reported on multiple news outlets.
CNN is reporting that at approximately 1:30 PM Central time MajorÂ Hasan, a formally trained medical doctor and psychiatrist,Â allegedly entered a building containing soldiers who were completingÂ preparations for overseas deployment and opened fire with two handguns, killing 12 soldiers and wounding 31.
News mediaÂ are saying that Dr. Hasan was stationed at the Darnall Army Medical Center and himself was to be deployed in the upcoming weeks. He was reportedly upset about this.
Although there is much to learn about this sad event andÂ it is unbelievably horrific on many levels,Â I am particularly revulsed that this act was allegedly committed by a physician and a trained mental health professional.
Any person who murders another deserves condemnation, but the fact that it appears thatÂ a physician who has taken an oath to put his patients’ well-being above all else committed this act on the very population that he has sworn to protect is beyond vile.
In addition, no person who joins the military should be surprised or upset about being sent to war. That is the reason why armies exist – to engage in combat.
While there are certainly people whose main reason for Â joining the militaryÂ is that they see it asÂ the onlyÂ economicÂ ladder out of poverty, this is more typical of young, less-educated soldiers who truly have constrained circumstances.
This is not the case for doctors. Physicians who stay in the civilian health care system are largely guaranteed access to federal financing for their education and training, if they are willing to undergo the inconvenience of handling a debt load of up to $300,000 upon graduation.
Some doctors in training, however,Â do not wish to take on that debt and have traditionally seen the military as a way to get solid medical training on an all-expenses-paid billet, with a relatively short six year commitment of service to “pay back their education.”
Up until the terrorist attacks on 9/11 and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, this six year commitment was usually spent practicing medicine in a civilian-like setting onÂ peacetime military posts.
But, living and practicing in a war zone make the cost of the military track much more “expensive” and perhaps open the military doctor trainee to regret at the path chosen.
The brutal fact is that Dr. Hasan might have gambled that there was going to be no war during his service commitment, but war there is. Was Dr. Hasan incensed that his well-laid plans were going awry and was he projecting his rage onto innocent soldiersÂ because he was being forced to pay his part of the bargain?
Finally, of all medical professions, psychiatrists are trained to be able to deal with difficult human emotions in themselves and others and should be able to summon more than the average cohort of coping skills.
Psychiatrists seeking therapy for themselves is well-accepted by the profession and even encouraged. Dr. Hasan had a moral obligation to get help if he felt his control or coping ability was slipping or if he was not able to handle the upcoming stress of deployment. Â Not to do so is inexcusable and as we now know, tragic for those around him.