A Surgeon Answers Her Country’s Call

A vascular surgeon at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center recently returned from a 90-day tour in Iraq as part of the U.S. Army Reserve.

7:00 AM

Author | Jane Racey Gleeson

Dawn Coleman, M.D., feels blessed to be a citizen of the United States and to have plentiful opportunities.

SEE ALSO: 'Superhero' Brothers Bonded by Rare XMEN Disease

As a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, she offers such gratitude not only in spirit but also with her extensive medical training. 

A vascular surgeon at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center, Coleman knows that her fellow service members join the military for different reasons, but all share a commitment to patriotism and to the greater good.

"My role in giving back to my country is very small in comparison to what I've gained and what others have given," says Coleman, who joined the military in 2003, prompted by a sense of duty and a strong family history of service.

My training at U-M prepared me for the complex injuries we have to manage on the battlefield.
Dawn Coleman, M.D.

On the front line

Coleman, 37, recently returned from a 90-day rotation in Iraq, where she was assigned to a forward operating base with her home unit, the 948th Forward Surgical Team. The team's mission was to provide medical assistance to local national, coalition and U.S. troops.

"Our unit did a tremendous amount of good," she says proudly of her first deployment.

As part of a forward surgical unit, Coleman was based near the combat zone in order to be immediately available to triage and resuscitate casualties. The team is equipped to perform damage-control surgery to salvage life, limbs and eyesight and to stabilize patients for transport to a higher level of hospital care.

"Each day brought different challenges," she says.

Using lifesaving skills

Serving as a military surgeon in Iraq shares some similarities to Coleman's typical work in Ann Arbor. 

SEE ALSO: U-M Surgeon Gives New Meaning to 'Running to Work'

Other elements — namely, the circumstances and causes of injury — are much different.

"My training at U-M prepared me for the complex injuries we have to manage on the battlefield," she says. "However, unlike most of the civilian trauma that I experience here, the majority of contemporary combat injury patterns result from blast injuries associated with IEDs [improvised explosive devices]."

Essential to preserving the fighting force, Coleman and her unit focused on collaborative education across medical teams, sharing and learning different aspects of combat-related care.

Surgeons in uniform are in high demand in the military, says Coleman, which makes her commitment and skill set all the more vital.

"As a vascular surgeon, I have the training to help wounded soldiers in a unique way," she says.

Coleman is overwhelmed by the support she has received from family and friends as well as from U-M at an institutional and departmental level. "I had a tremendous amount of support from my leadership in the Department of Surgery and from my partners, whose workload dramatically increased while I was away. I couldn't be more grateful for this," she says.

For now, Coleman is glad to be back at home with her husband and 4-year-old son. She continues to train monthly with her home Forward Surgical Team to maintain unit readiness for the next deployment. "I'm ready to go whenever I'm called again for service."


More Articles About: lifestyle Frankel Cardiovascular Center Soldiers and War veterans Hospitals & Centers
Health Lab word mark overlaying blue cells
Health Lab

Explore a variety of healthcare news & stories by visiting the Health Lab home page for more articles.

Media Contact Public Relations

Department of Communication at Michigan Medicine

[email protected]

734-764-2220

Stay Informed

Want top health & research news weekly? Sign up for Health Lab’s newsletters today!

Subscribe
Featured News & Stories Provider takes a pulse oximetry reading from a patient's finger
Health Lab
Inaccurate pulse oximeter readings could limit transplants, heart pumps for Black patients with heart failure
Racially biased readings of oxygen levels in the blood using pulse oximeters may further limit opportunities for Black patients with heart failure to receive potentially lifesaving treatments, such as heart pumps and transplants
News Release
Statewide cardiovascular consortium, hosted at Michigan Medicine, receives national award for patient safety, quality efforts
A collaborative partnership dedicated to improving statewide cardiovascular care and outcomes — hosted at Michigan Medicine — received national recognition for efforts in patient safety and quality. BMC2 received the award for its significant improvements in the documentation of radiation use, a decrease in high-dose radiation exposure and reduction in opioid prescribing rates for patients.
Hitinder Gurm, M.D. wearing a blue shirt, striped tie, and a Michigan Medicine branded white lab coat, standing next to a pillar
News Release
Hitinder Gurm, M.D., appointed chief medical officer of University of Michigan Health
Hitinder Gurm, M.D., has been selected to be the academic medical center chief medical officer (CMO) for University of Michigan Health.
art work with flower circle green teal orange yellow pink on display
Health Lab
Quiet strength of nature heals those dealing with cancer
An art exhibition explores the physical and emotional complexities of the cancer journey by combining anatomy with nature.
doctor heart floating stethoscope
Health Lab
AI model predicts death, complications for patients undergoing angioplasty, stents
Researchers at Michigan Medicine developed an AI-driven algorithm that accurately predicts death and complications after PCI — which could emerge as a tool for clinicians as they determine treatment for blocked heart arteries.
patient end of bed in hospital looking out window with stuffed animal on bed
Health Lab
Studying cells to improve medulloblastoma treatment
Research from Michigan Medicine experts is shedding light and potentially expanding options for patients living with an aggressive childhood cancer.