Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Vascular surgeon volunteers to treat soldiers injured in
Iraq, Afghanistan

Dr. John Rectenwald has volunteered to fill a slot in the surgery rotation of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, where many soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated.

(Photo courtesy U-M Health System)

A vascular surgeon at the Cardiovascular Center, Rectenwald left Saturday and will return June 7. He joins 51 other members of the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) in relieving the limited number of vascular surgeons in the military who are filling positions in military hospitals in the United States and internationally.

Rectenwald says he wants to help the men and women serving in the U.S. military.

“As a vascular surgeon I have the training to help these wounded soldiers in a unique way,” says Rectenwald, 39, who also is an assistant professor of surgery and assistant professor of radiology at the Medical School.

Rectenwald responded to a call for volunteers made by the SVS, a national advocate for 2,800 vascular surgeons dedicated to the prevention and cure of vascular disease.

He is on staff at the U-M Health System, where his wife, Dr. Rebecca Minter, also works as a general surgeon. They are raising their 1½-year-old son, Jack, in Ann Arbor.

The volunteer mission means Rectenwald will use his life-saving skills, usually performed at the nationally recognized Cardiovascular Center and its new arterial and venous programs, in a dramatically different environment.

“Our members understand how important expert surgeons are to the military in saving the lives and limbs of these young military heroes,” says K. Wayne Johnston, SVS past president.

“We were contacted by SVS member retired Col. David Gillespie, who at the time was the vascular surgery consultant at the Office of the U.S. Army Surgeon General and a professor of surgery at Walter Reed Medical Center,” Johnston says. “Our members quickly responded. I am proud to represent a specialty that unselfishly contributes where they are needed.”

Injuries incurred in the Iraq war are unique in that they include blast injuries from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and high-velocity injuries from crashes. Vascular surgeons repair the arteries and veins that are damaged as a result of the IEDs by using minimally invasive and open surgery.