EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

May 20, 2010

Salem doctor, Sandown soldier help veterans

It began with a chance meeting last year in an East Hampstead supermarket.

The Salem doctor and Sandown soldier lingered for more than an hour amid the bread and milk, concluding they could help injured soldiers heal better by providing lessons about the military to doctors, psychologists and others who care for veterans scarred by brain injuries and stress disorders.

On Saturday mornings over the next year, Dr. James Whitlock of Northeast Rehabilitation Hospital in Salem and retired New Hampshire National Guard Lt. Col. Kevin Major hammered out and refined the program. Major forged the arrangements with the New Hampshire National Guard.

It was called Military Orientation Training for Veterans Administration Clinicians and was held last week.

Whitlock, a neurologist, has no military training. He realized, after being recruited more than two years ago to treat brain-injured soldiers at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Manchester, that he and other medical professionals could benefit from military training.

They would be able to ask their patients better questions and form better relationships if they became familiar with military life, its terminology, equipment and experiences.

Injured soldiers, as a rule, don't like to complain, he said.

Returning home after living and fighting in a war zone can lead soldiers to feel isolated from those who have not gone through similar experiences, he said.

Major, who is not a combat veteran, saw promise in the idea of training medical professionals about military life.

Some injured National Guard soldiers say they suffer a second trauma when they come home, he said.

They are deployed as a group and do a lot of difficult things together and, typically, come home as a group. But when they are injured by explosions, rollovers or other trauma, they receive treatment and come home by themselves, Major said.

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