Lt. Col. Benjamin Mitchell, MD, the commander of an Air Force Special Operations Surgical Team operating out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has been awarded the 2017 Heroes of Military Medicine Award by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Inc.
Special Operations Surgical Teams (SOSTs) are mobile surgical specialists with advanced medical and tactics training who can deploy to hostile areas to provide surgical support. A six-member SOST is composed of an emergency physician, general surgeon, nurse anesthetist, critical care nurse, surgical technician and respiratory therapist.
UAB first became home to a SOST in 2010, allowing the team to work in the hospital's Level 1 trauma center when not deployed overseas, which helps members hone their skills and build team cohesion.
Lt. Col. Mitchell and his team deployed in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
The Heroes of Military Medicine is given to active-duty military medical professionals with one recipient each year from the Army, Navy and Air Force. The award honors outstanding contributions by individuals who have distinguished themselves in advancing military medicine.
Mitchell was cited for leadership when the team was posted to an austere location in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, treating multiple patients at a field casualty collection point while undergoing a mortar attack within 250 meters.
"In a SOST, you get to work with some of the best medical care providers in the military," Mitchell said. "We operate at a high level of readiness, and my team reflects the highest professionalism under extreme conditions."
Operating out of a small concrete house with equipment from their rucksacks, the team was the first to employ a resuscitative procedure called REBOA, a technique used in cases of major bleeding from chest, abdomen or pelvis injuries. REBOA involves stopping all blood flow temporarily while treating the most traumatic injuries.
The team employed REBOA on four patients, all of whom survived. This was the first time the technique was employed by Defense Department personnel outside a hospital setting.
The team members serving with Mitchell were Lt. Col. Matt Uber, Maj. Justin Manley, Maj. Nelson Pacheco, Capt. Cade Reedy and Technical Sergeant Richard Holguin. UAB hosts personnel from three SOSTs, whose members rotate between active military deployments and regular shifts at UAB Hospital.