Brandon Wills, DO, was an emergency physician and faculty member at Madigan Army Medical Center in Washington State when Peter Moffett, MD, joined the team as a resident. It was 2007, and the two doctors were building their careers at the crossroads of military service and emergency medicine.
They kept in touch after their stint in the military and Wills eventually recruited Moffett to join the emergency medicine department at the Commonwealth of Virginia University, where they both continue to draw on their military training. ready for whatever comes through the doors of the hospital.
Wills, associate professor and program director of the Medical Toxicology Fellowship, joined the military in 2005. Influenced by a family member who served in the Vietnam War and drawn to emergency medicine after working in an ambulance as a student, Wills said in combining his choice of specialty with military service “it all made sense.” Being separated from his wife and children was one of the most excruciating parts of his 2006 deployment to a combat support hospital in Mosul, Iraq, but he described his time in the military as l one of the most profound experiences of his life.
âI think about it almost every day,â he says. âThe deep trauma and loss, but also the camaraderie. “
When Moffett began medical school in 2003, the 9/11 attacks were always on his mind, and like Wills, his work as a paramedic introduced him to emergency medicine. He joined the military under the Health Professions Scholarship Program, which covers tuition fees for medical students who sign up to serve in the military after their training. He completed his residency in Madigan and deployed to Iraq in 2010.
âWhen you train in the military in emergency medicine, you know you’re going to be practicing in a different environment than anywhere else,â said Moffett, who always keeps his watch set to military time. . âEven though we didn’t see it every day, we prepared for it every day. So I felt comfortable leaving the residence knowing that I could take care of absolutely anything.
Moffett worked at a combat support hospital during his deployment, primarily caring for wounded Iraqis. Like many servicemen, these experiences helped forge an even deeper and long-term bond with his military colleagues.
This connection brought Moffett to VCU. He had kept in touch with several friends in the military, and when his mentor, Wills, called him from Richmond and suggested he visit the VCU Medical Center, it was not a hard sell. Moffett joined us in 2014 and is now an Associate Professor and Associate Director of the Emergency Medicine Residency Program.
Training with the military prepared Moffett and Wills for the wide range of complex cases they encounter on a daily basis in the emergency department at VCU Medical Center. Wills said the level of collegiality at a deployed combat support hospital was unlike anything he had experienced. VCU is a “close second,” he said.
âI think that’s why I love him here,â Moffett agreed. âYou see the pathology, the acuity of the patients, but also our group of professors and residents is simply exceptional. “
In addition to medical training, leadership was fundamental in the military – Moffett described it as “an almost permanent part of the curriculum” from day one.
âThere was nothing like not knowing how to be a leader,â he said. “And in the military, you kind of found people who you thought were good leaders and you got attached to them, like Brandon here.”
Moffett credits much of his career development to mentors like Wills, whom he described as both brilliant and able to translate complex concepts into something understandable.
âHe’s also a master at pulling people up instead of pushing them down,â Moffett said. âI always felt like even if I didn’t have the right answer, he was going to try to get something out of me and then not make me feel stupid when I didn’t have him. So it was this extremely encouraging way of learning. “
Wills takes little credit for his colleague’s success and has said Moffett was a remarkable resident from the start.
âThere is a distance between where you are as a caregiver and where the resident is in terms of skills and clinical knowledge, and with Pete, that gap was closing right before my eyes. It didn’t take long for me to see that he was surpassing what I could give him, “Wills said.” Seeing that as a faculty member, whether it’s Pete or anyone else, is the coolest thing, and that’s always what I hope for when working with residents. “
This story was originally published by the School of Medicine under the title âCommitted to service. “
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