For the last three years, Somnia’s nationwide network of clinical and administrative leaders convenes in New Rochelle for the annual leadership retreat. Outlining future company direction and emerging trends in anesthesia services, the meeting allows clinicians to share experiences at their respective healthcare facilities, providing peers with new approaches to patient care and management of clinical staff.
This year’s event followed an agenda similar to the previous two editions, but with a very special twist. Col. (ret.) John Uhorchak, MD, an orthopedic surgeon who served 28 years in the United States Army, was the Friday morning keynote speaker. In “Past & Present Challenges from the OR Battlefield,” Col. Uhorchak shared anecdotes from his time in war zones throughout the world, including Afghanistan and Iraq.
But perhaps the most indelible stories originated from his time in Mogadishu, Somalia on October 3-4, 1993. If that date sounds awfully familiar, it should – that’s the Battle of Mogadishu, better known as Black Hawk Down, the events of which were dramatized in a 2001 Academy Award-nominated feature film. An operation gone wrong, the battle resulted in 18 U.S. deaths and 80 wounded, but will often remembered by the heroism of many involved, including Col. Uhorchak.In a 34-hour time frame, Col. Uhorchak performed 22 emergency surgeries on wounded soldiers of the Task Force Ranger and 10th Mountain Division. Not surprisingly, Col. Uhorchak downplayed his significance during these events, focusing the spotlight on the heroic actions taken by the troops on the ground. His deeds didn’t do unnoticed thankfully, as he was honored with the Order of Military Medical Merit for his work in Somalia.
Upon conclusion of his presentation, the more than 60 clinical and administrative staff in the room gave Col. Uhorchak a well-deserved standing ovation. True to form, before Col. Uhorchak left, he announced that he wanted his speaker stipend donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, another heroic and noble act in career filled with so many. To make your own contribution to the Wounded Warrior Project, please visit http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org.