Citizen-Surgeon takes readers into the otherwise inaccessible, remote, and intense world of life and surgery within a combat zone. In the backdrop of the U.S. led war in Afghanistan, amidst a defining U.S. Marine Corps’ offensive to conquer the Marjah region of Helmand Province, [then] U.S. 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 military 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 non-medical 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, failure, contemporary war and military medicine. It is a highly-readable 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 reveal’s one man’s chess-match against it. It is a must-read 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.
Endorsements from Commanding General and MEB Surgeon
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
“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)
PersonalResponses from readers:
I have finished your book (for me it was pretty much a page turner) and I feel that it is an essential read for a) those considering becoming a military physician, and b) perhaps more significantly, for the spouses of those individuals. You speak eloquently of the light and the dark in that line of work, both at home and deployed. You make it very clear that PTSD is not limited to those who have endured physical trauma, but is a condition affecting all those exposed to war and the injuries inherent in that – both to friends and enemies. I really loved your final Paradox paragraph. It was especially moving. Finally, I especially loved the chapter on Moshtarak. It basically says it all concerning medical care during combat. As a last word, I feel that your book should be read by all and should be nominated for a Pulitzer prize (some spelling things to fix). Very Respectfully, Norris Childs , MD, FACS, CAPT, MC, USN (ret) PS, I hope I will be able to get a hard copy of this book – so my wife can read it, and know she was not the only one.
I finished your book this evening. I was up late reading it on more than one night. On more than one night it evoked my recurring dream of deployment: being separated from my wife and being frustrated in my every attempt to get back to her. Of course we know many of the same people and share many of the same experiences as surgeons in combat theaters of operation. Thank you for the candor and reverence in your accounting. Thank you for sharing this work with me.
From Amazon Reviews:
MikeyB 5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding book! Reviewed in the United States on October 10, 2016Verified PurchaseA superb and heartfelt book! The author tells his story in a very understandable and sympathetic way. Don’t believe the saying that “surgeons are cold and unfeeling”, the author clearly feels for his patients and adores his wife and children. He returned to Afghanistan for a second tour subsequent to writing this book – I hope that he writes about that tour too! Highly recommended.
Reviewed in the United States on October 16, 2020 A must read. This book will take you on a very heartfelt journey of a young man attempting to find himself and his purpose for being placed on this earth, to a middle aged experienced military surgeon and officer, who now must deal with the emotional baggage that he’s accumulated over the course of this incredible life experience. Citizen Surgeon is an intensely descriptive story of the strength and sacrifices our military personnel, and their families, experience and endure. It also portrays the horrific challenges and split second decisions our medical military face daily on the combat field. The writing is so descriptive, the reader will feel as though they are taking the journey right along side the author. A highly informative, descriptive, emotional, horrific story that will leave the reader with an even higher respect for our men and women in the military and especially those in military medicine who fight their own war daily with devastating trauma on the battle field. God bless America.
Don S and TeamGolfwell 5.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Read Written by a Very Intelligent and Caring Man. Reviewed in the United States on February 16, 2018 I enjoyed reading Dr. Paul Roach’s, “Citizen Surgeon: A Memoir.” A dramatic, intense, and intriguing book, from a surgeon who boldly bares his sincere feelings and thoughts about the emotions, and the horrific experiences of war, his concern for patients and his love for his family. Going to war makes most concerned about their own survival, but the author seemed to show (in my opinion) even more concern for his own family and his patients.
In the Forward of his book, he writes, “For every injured or killed service member there is also a circle of family and friends directly affected by those wounds and a larger additional circle of individuals who are in some way concerned or involved. If you have gotten this far in this book you are already part of that larger circle and the more concerned and involved you get, the closer you will come to its center.” When I read this author’s clear factual accounts, I felt I became closer to the center.
I liked the way he described his journey after it was over, “…the citizen-turned combat surgeon had to find a way back to becoming a citizen. He didn’t return to being the same citizen he had been before he left…The one he became was bit grayer and wiser than the one that departed.”
I became wiser and more aware after reading this book. Thank you for writing it.
Morgan Gilmour5.0 out of 5 stars This book could change your lifeReviewed in the United States on May 16, 2019 A thorough, heartfelt, thoughtful glimpse into the the life of a surgeon forward deployed in Afghanistan. This phenomenal book left a lasting impact on me, as a budding military surgeon. The author’s ability to capture a scene brought me as close to his environment as I could be, reading in the safety and comfort of the United States. I truly appreciated the author’s historical insights, honest introspection, and reflections on the current conflict. His introspection was perhaps the most significant aspect of the book for me. As the author described the transcendence one achieves by serving these brave men and women of the US military and the civilians in the area, I was profoundly captivated. This book cemented my decision to pursue this profession as my life’s work and calling. It is my impression that this book has the potential to serve as a powerful recruiting tool for anyone remotely interested in combat medicine. At the very least, any who read it will come away with a deeper and perhaps even life-changing respect for those who do this work and their families, and brotherly love for the men, women, and children of Afghanistan.
Shari C.5.0 out of 5 stars Hardships of combat medicine Reviewed in the United States on August 1, 2021 I did 3 tours in a combat medical unit, his words are what wish I could have conveyed to those who followed me. As military medical professionals, we go forward and do our job with no real thought as to how it will affect us when we return home. So real, so true.
Amazon Customer5.0 out of 5 stars A great read and fascinating look at military life and the …Reviewed in the United States on January 1, 2017A great read and fascinating look at military life and the US war in Afghanistan. Roach takes the reader through his decision process from a young man losing his father, to a US Navy surgeon operating in an alien and war torn country, in one of the driest regions on the planet. Told beautifully with precise detail, this is a must read for all interested in understanding the sacrifices extraordinary members of our military and their families make for our country