Norfolk, Va. May 22, 2006 -- On any given day, the scene is played out dozens of times. Surgical instruments stand at the ready. Nurses and techs clad in hospital scrubs efficiently execute their tasks. Cardiac surgeons and their synchronized teams heroically struggle to restore ailing hearts.
But not so long ago, the daily scene for Michael Ford McGrath, M.D., a Norfolk-based cardiothoracic surgeon, changed drastically. He traded in the crisp, sterile environment of Sentara Norfolk General Hospital for the smoldering, dust-covered roads of Western Iraq.
Stationed at Al Asad Air Base, Commander McGrath and the members of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 24, escorted convoys through more than 20,000 miles on Iraqs roads without a single loss of life.
As battalion medical officer, Dr. McGrath was responsible for the health of the entire battalion as it performed a variety of construction projects crucial to the future of Iraq and Southwest Asia, including one that will expedite the process of bringing U.S. troops home. At Camp Blue Diamond, near Ramadi, along the Euprates River in eastern Al Anbar, NMCB 24 installed a helicopter landing pad and built a military dining facility that is capable of withstanding rocket and mortars used by insurgents to attack U.S. and Iraqi installations.
Dr. McGrath was commissioned into the Navy Reserve in 1994 and has been with NMCB 24 since July, 2004. During that time, he has seen his share of injured sailors, marines and soldiers.
"I have either performed or assisted in well over 50 cases of injured soldiers," said Dr. McGrath.
One of the most compelling cases during this most recent deployment involved a wounded 22-year-old Marine.
"The nurse came in and told us that he had twin boys that he had never seen. It ramped up the tension level in there, because we were going to do everything we could to make sure he got out of that hospital and home so he could see them," Dr. McGrath said.
"The hospital has become my other family in Iraq. I was happy to help my friend from Naval Hospital Portsmouth, Capt. William Liston, with trauma cases at Bravo Surgical," said Dr. McGrath, expressing both his personal and professional commitment to his fellow troops.
He was also happy to safely return home to his wife and children in Chesapeake, and to his practice here in Hampton Roads.
Dr. McGrath is a board certified general and thoracic surgeon and partner at Mid-Atlantic Cardiothoracic Surgeons, Ltd. He is also assistant professor of surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School where he teaches medical students and surgical residents. One of the many members of the exceptional cardiac team that has propelled Sentara Norfolk General Hospital to its ranking as the 23rd cardiac program in the country by U.S. News and World Report, Dr. McGrath stands prepared to continue saving lives on the front lines and at home.
Sentara Healthcare is a premier not-for-profit health care provider in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.