By Ms. Suzanne Ovel (Army Medicine)July 2, 2018
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Washington -- Just three weeks after graduating from his residency in 2003, then-Capt. (Dr.) Imad Haque found himself headed to his first deployment -- testing his new skills in the world of combat medicine.
He soon hit both Iraq and Afghanistan at the height of the wars as a general surgeon, to include operating on the steep number of war wounded during the Battle of Fallujah. He lost track of how many lives he saved over the total of five years he spent deployed.
Now, getting ready for his ninth deployment 15 years later, now-Col. Haque talks of his time saving service members downrange "as my very solemn duty -- that's why I'm here."
"I'm here not only to take care of them; I'm here to make sure that the next generation is here to learn from what I learned and take care of them," said Haque, who is now at Madigan Army Medical Center as a staff general surgeon and the director of surgical simulation at its Andersen Simulation Center.
Growing up just outside of Chicago, medicine ran in his family -- all the way to his maternal grandfather, in fact. Six of his mom's siblings were physicians; she was a pathologist. Even his dad practiced as an anesthesiologist.
"Medicine is a part of (our family) culture," Haque said.
His parents actually met in medical school in Pakistan, later immigrating to the United States to train and practice as doctors.
"They were kind of groundbreaking folks. They were part of a generation that kind of broke the education barrier in Pakistan," he said.
As a first-generation American-Pakistani, Haque grew up in what he described as "a swirling of cultures."
At home he was one of three kids in a fairly conservative Muslim family; at school, he immersed himself in gymnastics, soccer and student government, all the while developing an ever-increasing interest in the Army. In both realms, he said he grew up in cultures of success and hard work that paved the path for an appointment to West Point.
There, he internalized the motto of "Duty, Honor, Country."
"It becomes very solidified during your time there, and then you go out and you do it," Haque said.
He carried that sense of duty with him since he first arrived at Madigan in 1998 as a fresh graduate from the University of Illinois' College of Medicine. With many of the hospital's military surgeons then deployed, he learned his trade from civilian surgeons whom he calls his colleagues today.
"I owe a huge debt of gratitude to our civilian staff because they taught us surgery," said Haque, who named Dr. Chuck Anderson, Dr. Preston Carter and Dr. Bill Eggebroten as key in teaching him surgical skills.
"While he was a resident he was known for being here very late at night or all night making extra rounds in the ICU just to make sure the patients were all doing well," said Andersen, Madigan's chief of the Wound Care Service and medical director of the Outpatient Wound Care Clinic. "That commitment to give the extra time and commitment has carried on since he has been on staff not only in patient care, but also in resident education ... He has set the highest standard for all of us to follow."
Haque took the skills he learned from Anderson and others to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, which in 2003 was "still a very sleepy regional hospital." That swiftly changed as the war in Iraq exploded; in 2004, Haque was home just 42 nights -- his wife counted. Most of those nights were spent at Landstuhl taking care of wounded service members straight out of combat.
"We were literally turning over the hospital every 72 hours," he said. Interspersed with multiple deployments downrange -- he was called off of post-deployment leave to go to Fallujah -- Haque quickly became a seasoned surgeon.
Along with his fellow surgeons and all of military medicine at the time, he piled up lessons learned of how to improve field medicine, from resuscitative protocols to just what skills surgeons need to be successful in combat medicine. Combined with his natural interest in simulation throughout his career, this led to Haque getting involved with Madigan's Anderson Simulation Center when he returned here in 2008.
Beyond overseeing surgical simulation training, Haque directs and teaches courses for Basic Endovascular Skills for Trauma, Advanced Surgical Skills for Exposure in Trauma, Advanced Trauma Operative Management, and Advanced Trauma Life Support. Haque teaches residents across the spectrum of medical specialties how to serve as battalion surgeons downrange. He also purposely brings together surgeons, medics and licensed practical nurses during training so they get to experience training with, and learn from, the other personnel who will form their forward surgical teams in combat environments.
"Our residents will all deploy within four to eight months of graduating; that's why it's so important that they get that experience and they get that exposure. That's really been my focus for 10 years," said Haque, who also helps lead residents' annual Capstone exercises in field medicine conditions.
That intense focus on training the next generation of doctors results in helping to save even more service members' lives.
"As a recent graduate from the Madigan general surgery residency program, I can say that Col. Haque's devotion to surgical education and preparing the next generation of surgeons to care for Soldiers on the battlefield is unparalleled," said Maj. (Dr.) Jason Bingham, now a surgeon at Madigan. "Just five days after graduating I was headed to a far-forward location on my first combat deployment. While nothing during my training could totally prepare me for what I was about to experience, the time I spent with Col. Haque over the past six years gave me the tools I needed to succeed."
It's the knowledge that sharing his combat surgeon experience with residents actually helps save lives that motivates Haque to keep teaching, he said.
His other wellspring of motivation came in the form of a young specialist with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan several years ago.
The Soldier told him, "Hey sir, I saw what you did for so-and-so, and just knowing that everything is going to be done to save my life gives me the confidence to go up that hill."
He paused as that sank in again.
"I'll never forget that to this day," Haque said.