Citizen-Surgeon takes listeners into the otherwise inaccessible, remote, and intense world of life and surgery within a combat zone. In the backdrop of the US-led war in Afghanistan, amid a defining US Marine Corps’ offensive to conquer the Marjah region of Helmand Province, [then] US Navy Commander Paul Roach and his company-mates assemble and congeal as a medical unit in Southern California, transport from the United States to their tents in Dasht-e-Margo (the “Desert of Death”) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, and professionally execute their role as one of the few medical and surgical companies supporting this major offensive.
In the course of the book’s events, the author undergoes a transformation from being a physician in a military uniform into a military officer that happens to be a physician. The crucible effecting this change is the military offensive and his role within it. Shocking and intense, an array of critical injuries and their treatments are described in rich language that anyone, medical or nonmedical alike, can absorb. Death also pervades the atmosphere; intrusive, unyielding, and painful, its battlefield familiarity and personal impact is resisted, suffered, and ultimately, accepted.
Citizen-Surgeon is an intimate portrayal; a chronicle; a celebration of friendship, love, success, and failure; contemporary war; and military medicine. It is an account of a slice of reality that few people are privileged to know. It reflects deeply upon the nature of personal choice and how that choice puts us where we are in life, even if we did not fully see in advance how the choice would change us. Citizen-Surgeon also explores a variant of post-traumatic stress particular to medical assets, and it reveals one man’s chess match against it. It is a must-listen for those with a specific interest in contemporary military medicine, and for those with broader, essentially human interests in individual growth, adventure, and self-actualization.
Endorsement from Commanding General Nicholson
As the former Commander of all US Marines in Afghanistan’s brutal Helmand Province during 2009-1010, I stand in awe of the medical professionals who were forward deployed in harm’s way at our most remote, vulnerable, and dangerous locations providing life-saving resuscitative care to our freshly and often grievously wounded Marines and Sailors. There are Marines, allies and Afghans alive today precisely due to the risk these Doctors, Nurses and Navy Corpsmen took every day to save lives. I saw innovation, agility and heroic actions taken by these medical teams to guarantee each wounded warrior the best chance of survival. Marines and Sailors knew that if they were wounded, that within minutes, not hours, they would be in a forward deployed medical facility attended to by world class and caring teammates. Captain Roach takes you on a journey into the triage and operating rooms through his vivid and brilliant descriptions that transport a reader into a place where they can smell, sweat and for a few moments feel the raw emotions of saving lives on a distant battlefield. This book pays tribute to the selfless and heroic actions of our too often unheralded but always immensely appreciated and respected combat medical teams. Semper Fidelis,
Lieutenant General USMC (ret) Lawrence D. Nicholson, Commanding General 2nd MEB-A Helmand Province
Endorsement from and Marine Expeditionary Brigade Surgeon McCartney
“Citizen Surgeon is expertly written by Dr. Paul Roach who was right in the middle of history-making and ‘highly kinetic’’ USMC engagement in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. I commend his ability to give a superbly accurate close and descriptive view of what a combat surgeon performs in today’s lethally weaponized combat theaters. He takes off the shelf, and selflessly shares with the reader, the many emotional and spiritual battles we face as we rapidly scrub our hands and take the scalpel to a rapidly bleeding young warrior. As battle-tested surgeons in austere places we all, at one time or another, have to ‘visit our own personal and private cemetery’ where we perform tortured self-analysis on our decisions and ourselves. In Citizen Surgeon a brave, professional and gifted Captain Paul Roach allows the reader to travel with him to that very place with great humility and literary skill.”
Captain Stephen F. McCartney, USN (Ret.), former command surgeon, US Navy Medical Corps, Second Marine Expeditionary Brigade, Task Force Leatherneck (2009-2010)