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Dr. Jay Johannigman Arrives in Ukraine on a Volunteer Mission

On May 27, 2022, a surgical team led by retired Air Force Col. (Dr.) Warren Dorlac, a Uniformed Services University alumnus and associate professor of Surgery, and Dr. Jay Johannigman, a Cincinnati-based military trauma surgeon, arrived in Lviv, Ukraine, to begin a volunteer mission supporting Ukraine’s civilian Emergency Medical Clinical Hospital. Dorlac’s team joined an existing team of volunteer surgeons deployed by the Global Surgical Medical Support Group (GSMSG), a non-profit organization that sends volunteer surgeons and physicians to disaster and conflict zones around the world. Their program provides visiting surgeons training in combat casualty care and sends volunteer combat surgeons to work directly with Ukrainian clinicians and caregivers.

Pictured below, Dr. Jay Johannigman and Dr. Warren Dorlac.

The Lviv Visiting Surgeon team at work in the clinic in Lviv, Ukraine. (Photo credit: Warren Dorlac, Kelley Thompson, and Jay Johannigman)
The Lviv Visiting Surgeon team at work in the clinic in Lviv, Ukraine.(Photo credit: Warren Dorlac, Kelley Thompson, and Jay Johannigman)

Dr. Warren Dorlac

Dorlac, a recognized expert in trauma surgery and trauma care, was uniquely qualified to lead the team. A 1989 USU F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine graduate, he served for 26 years as an Air Force surgeon, specializing in general, emergency, and trauma surgery. He was responsible for overseeing the care of wounded and injured service members while as chief of trauma and trauma medical director at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. Later, Dorlac directed the U.S. Central Command’s Joint Theater Trauma System, where he led trauma care units in Iraq and Afghanistan. He eventually served as a trauma consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General. He has also published research on trauma-relevant topics and worked as a consultant and advisor to U.S. allies seeking to establish their own military trauma care programs.  

Dorlac’s team began its work immediately upon arrival in Ukraine, starting with an assessment, which quickly identified a need for telehealth resources and microvascular surgical instruments.  Those items were subsequently received and put in place in the clinic. 

Read: Blunt Splenic Trauma Outline

Dr. Jay Johannigman

Jay Johannigman, M.D. Jay Johannigman, M.D. is a Cincinnati-based trauma/critical care surgeon with more than 40 years of experience. He received his AB degree from Kenyon College in biology and then went on to get his doctorate of medicine at Case Western Reserve University. After completing his postdoctoral trauma and surgical critical care training, he returned to school during his military years to complete his Aerospace Medicine Primary Course (Boss AFB) and to graduate from the Air War College.

Dr. Johannigman served in a variety of military positions over the years, including as a staff surgeon and medical director of the Surgical Critical Care Service in Texas at the Wilford hall USAF Medical Centre in Texas, consultant surgeon at the Air Force Special Operations Command, and trauma director at the 332nd AFTH/332EAW at Balad Air Base, Iraq. He was also colonel in the Office of the Surgeon General USAF in Washington. He was deployed in combat theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan for 18 years. There he gained valuable experience and the ability to assist trauma patients in American hospitals.

After many years of service in the military, he was recruited to the University of Cincinnati faculty and served in the Department of Surgery as well as the Division of Trauma. He was active in the army reserves, served in academic positions, held professional positions in civilian hospitals, as well as military roles over the past two decades. Dr. Johannigman was the founder of the Cincinnati Center for the Sustainment of Trauma Readiness Skills (Cincinnati CSTARS).

An American Veteran Study that surveyed 5,800 veterans in 2017 found 12.9% of them had PTSD. This can have a significant impact on military families and the wider society. Dr. Jay is a trauma surgeon and has assisted military institutions and universities to set up trauma units, where he and his colleagues perform emergency surgery for critical injuries.

Dr. Johannigman brought battlefield medical technology to the Cincinnati first responders in April 2014. Western & Southern Financial Group donated the life-saving technology to enable attending physicians to be present at an emergency scene. It was revolutionary in its time, with a daylight-readable display, an intuitive interface, ruggedized construction, and centralized charging.

Dr. Johannigman was one of the elite Air Force medical teams that were trained in Cincinnati. The University of Cincinnati’s Medical Center trained doctors, nurses, and other health professionals in the program. They saved lives by volunteering their time, touching more than 5,600 military families.

Jay, as the head of the UC Medical Center’s trauma and critical care center, was responsible for bringing lifesaving training to Cincinnati. Jay was also a driving force in ensuring that vital medical knowledge was transmitted and that health professionals receive the most current instructions to ensure that they do their jobs efficiently.

Dr. Johannigman is also co-author of close to 100 papers in a variety of publications. He was the author of “Use a single ventilator for 4 patients: Laboratory evaluation and a limited concept”, published in 2012 by Respiratory Care. In his four decades of experience, Dr. Johannigman has received numerous awards and certifications, especially in critical and trauma care.

He was awarded the Advanced Trauma Life Support Certification (ATLS). The Bronze Star Medal is an award given to individuals who have shown heroism or bravery in armed conflict. It dates back to 1944. Jay was also awarded the Military Health System Research Symposium’s Distinguished Service Award as well as the Good Samaritan General Surgery Residency Adjunct Teacher Award. The Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bell also awarded Dr. Jay the Cincinnati Reds Opening Day Hero award, which is given to community heroes, past or present.

Jay Johannigman MD is a surgeon at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas. He provides critical care and trauma treatment to patients. He enjoys riding his bike, which has made it his passion. He believes that cycling is the best way for him to see the country and its beautiful landscape.

Read: Traumatic Brain Injury: Types, Causes, and Symptoms

Arriving in Ukraine

Within their first few days in Ukraine, the team evaluated conditions, offered recommendations, and delivered lectures and training on topics including end points of resuscitation and the use of ultrasound in trauma and critical care.  The team also helped with efforts to develop a whole blood program for hemorrhagic shock management and improve infection control measures. According to Dorlac, emergency medicine is not a dedicated specialty in Ukraine. The Lviv emergency hospital staff that the team assisted includes trauma and general surgeons, thoracic surgeons, vascular surgeons, pediatric surgeons, orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists/intensivists, and surgical and critical care nurses. The caseload included “typical combat wounds –- extensive burns, complex fractures, nerve injuries, soft tissue loss, and wounds and amputations,” said Dorlac. 

Dorlac's team began its work immediately upon arrival in Lviv, Ukraine. (Photo credit: Warren Dorlac, Kelley Thompson, Jay Johannigman)
Dorlac’s team began its work immediately upon arrival inLviv, Ukraine. (Photo credit: Warren Dorlac, Kelley Thompson,Jay Johannigman)

The team’s efforts were funded through the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine’s Norman M. Rich Surgery Endowment. The endowment is named for USU professor emeritus Dr. Norman Rich, an American College of Surgeons “Icon in Surgery.”  As USU’s first full-time faculty member, Rich, a former Army colonel, founded the School of Medicine’s Department of Surgery, serving as a professor in the department from 1976 to 1999, and then its chair from 1999 to 2012. He retired from the Army in 1980, and after more than 50 years of military and civilian service to the country, he retired from USU in 2018. 

“As one of the first surgeons to come out of the Vietnam War, I’ve been involved in teaching courses related to trauma life support and combat casualty care to surgeons for decades, across cultures, borders, and language barriers,” he said. “I appreciate HJF’s donation to support the Lviv Visiting Surgeon Program to help those who have the misfortune of being injured during the attacks on Ukraine,” Rich said. 

Dorlac was accompanied on the Ukraine mission by a distinguished team of medical professionals including a military trauma surgeon and USU Surgery department faculty member Air Force Col. (Dr.) Jay Johannigman, renowned burn surgeon Dr. William Hickerson, and surgical physician assistant Kelley Thompson. With their work in Ukraine, Dorlac, Johannigman, and the other surgical team members continue the tradition of U.S. military medical aid for conflict victims around the world, a tradition interwoven throughout USU’s entire 50-year history, beginning with Dr. Rich. 

“As a military surgeon, I have seen the worst that humanity can do, but I have also been fortunate enough to see the best,” said Dorlac, writing from Lviv. “It is a privilege to be part of this life-saving mission serving the brave people of Ukraine.” 

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