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Member Spotlight: Dr. Joshua Strommen
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Next up in our Member Spotlight: Dr. Joshua Strommen, TCEP member and Texas Leadership and Advocacy Fellow, talks about his experience as a medic in Afghanistan and how it has made him into the #lifesavER he is today. Dr. Strommen is a constituent of Senator Dawn Buckingham, Representative Scott Cosper, and Representative Hugh Shine.

You would think that being an emergency physician in the middle of a war would be vastly different from healing patients safe at home, but at the end of the day, it’s the same process. Intubation. Chest tubes. FAST exams. Central lines. An operating room. Same words, same techniques, but your subconscious reminds you that you’re not at home in Texas, you’re in Ghazni, Afghanistan and your patient is an Afghan national soldier with multiple gunshot wounds. These reminders, these harrowing moments emboldened and underscored my medical career beyond anything I could have imagined.

I began my medical training at the University of Texas at Houston Medical School in 2007. I was grateful to be accepted and educated in the world’s largest medical center, but I had always wanted to be in the military and it wasn’t long until I joined the US Army during my second year of medical school. From this point in my life, it was my goal to be deployed as an Emergency Medicine physician and help care for the soldiers who lay their lives on the line and wait for fate to impart its will.

In 2014, I was delivered right into the dream that I had seven years prior. Within minutes of landing in Ghazni, Afghanistan as part of a Forward Surgical Team, my capabilities as a physician were immediately tested. Before even stowing my clothes away, the call came through and our team had three Afghan national soldiers brought to our Forward Operating Base with multiple gunshot wounds after being ambushed while on patrol. Along with nurses, medics, an orthopedic surgeon, a general surgeon, and an anesthesiologist we took to the care of patients with the urgency that is ingrained within emergency caretakers.

During my time in the military, I had the experience of caring for the victims in a mass casualty incident at Fort Hood in April of 2014 where 16 soldiers were shot and 4 were killed due to an active shooter. Additionally, I had the opportunity to serve as the trauma team leader for several mass casualty incidents in Kabul, Afghanistan. As a physician, these events have helped me understand the true implications and value of teamwork, dedication to the mission, and focus during times of chaotic crisis.

The moments I spent in the US Army are unforgettable and will forever stay with me. I feel the greatest sense of humility and gratitude when I think about how I can make a difference in the life of the next patient who walks into my Emergency Department. The deepest satisfaction and fulfillment comes from my interactions and treatments resulting in a patient who not only understands their ailment, but sees and feels how they have improved physically and emotionally from their treatment. For an emergency physician, a patient unknowingly asking if they can see me on a regular basis in my clinic is the greatest compliment I could ever receive.

You see, I don’t have a regular clinic, but I am part owner of a free standing emergency department in Temple, Texas. When a patient walks in our door, they may not know it, but experiences from central Afghanistan to the inner city of Houston, Texas has provided me with not only the ability to stabilize the most critical of illnesses, but the passion to find the emotional and human connection which encourages them to come back if they ever need to.

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