April 06, 2012

Nancy Solomon

Orthopaedic Surgeon: National Hero of Military Medicine

Maj. Erik Nott, M.D., Teaches Students, Cares for Patients at SLU

A Saint Louis University orthopaedic surgeon and a major in the Air Force who recently received a Purple Heart has been named a national 2012 Hero of Military Medicine.

Maj. Erik Nott, M.D.

Air Force Maj. Erik Nott, M.D., a SLUCare orthopaedic surgeon at Saint Louis University Hospital, will be honored for his bravery, leadership and skills as a surgeon and educator by the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine on May 2 in Washington, D.C. Five members of the military nationally will be recognized as heroes at the event.

Recognition Comes Early in Career

Nott has been a practicing orthopaedic surgeon for five years.

"It's very humbling to be recognized with a national award and certainly something I wouldn't have expected at this point in my medical career," Nott said.

"It's nice to be recognized for what you do when you do something that is a little bit more dangerous and little bit more risky, but really rewarding. Our medical team provides unique medical support for some tremendous individuals in the military who are heroes themselves."

Howard Place, M.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery at SLU who served in the Army for a dozen years, said the Jackson Foundation typically honors high profile public officials such as congressmen or high ranking members of the military, who have had years of military service.

"The foundation recognizes people who advance the field of military medicine," Place said. "The award positions Dr. Nott as a standout, as someone who can advance the field locally and around the world. He is clearly a leader, an outstanding individual and skilled surgeon and we're very lucky to have him at SLU."

About the Unit

Nott is assistant mission commander for an elite, eight-person Air Force medical operations unit known as the Special Operations Surgical Team/Special Operations Critical Care Evacuation Team, which provides close support for military troops on special missions. They stabilize injured members of the military so they can be transported to hospitals for further medical care.

When not in the field, that military unit is embedded at SLU and Saint Louis University Hospital, teaching residents and medical school students and keeping their skills sharp as they care for patients at a Level 1 trauma center.

Able to mobilize quickly and go where needed to save the lives of troops and civilians, the team is on call for deployment at least once a year. The unit, based at Hurlburt Field in Florida, is one of two pilot programs that could transform future medical military care.

Nott's squadron and flight commanders nominated him for the national award, noting he led the seamless reassignment of his special operations medical Air Force team to Saint Louis University Hospital, where the team improved clinical and trauma skills that are important in caring for wounded troops and civilians.

Serving in Remote Afghanistan

For more than 100 days last summer, Nott served as the only orthopaedic surgeon within 100 miles of his location, personally overseeing the medical care of Special Operations forces who were stationed at a remote site in Afghanistan.

During his tour of duty last May, Nott, his medical colleagues and troops they supported were attacked by insurgents, wielding machine guns and grenades. Nott's leg was injured, but instead of returning stateside to recover, Nott chose to stay in Afghanistan, where he could continue caring for patients. He received a Purple Heart last November.

"I didn't want to leave and disrupt the team," Nott said. "The doctors numbed it with Lidocaine, stitched it up, covered it and I kept it clean. I just kept doing my thing."

That work included extending compassionate medical care to local civilians.

In one instance, Nott changed the life of a local interpreter by surgically reconstructing his right thumb, which restored the Afghani's ability to write. In another, he performed a surgery that allowed a patient to keep his foot, which otherwise would have been amputated.

Caring for Local Residents

Nott was vigilant outside the operating theater, as well. Three to five times a week, he visited a local patient to care for his leg wound, helping the injury to heal and sparing the leg from amputation.

In addition to being an accomplished physician, Nott is a dedicated educator who sees teaching as one of his most important responsibilities.

Fluent in Spanish, Nott worked with a local Spanish Army medical team to improve patient care at a village clinic in the field. He has taught orthopaedic residents at Saint Louis University and Special Operations Forces medics at Hurlburt Field. When he was deployed in Afghanistan, he taught medics from the Afghanistan National Army how to care for wounds and perform minor surgical interventions for abscesses and hand infections.

According to the foundation giving the award, those who receive a Hero of Military Medicine Award have distinguished themselves through excellence and selfless dedication to advancing medicine for wounded, ill and injured service members, veterans and their families. A member of each branch of the military is recognized as well as a lifetime achievement winner and leader in a chain of command.

The Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine is a private, not-for-profit organization established in 1983 and authorized by Congress to support medical research and education at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and throughout the broader military medical community.

Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: cancer, infectious disease, liver disease, aging and brain disease and heart/lung disease.

Read about C-STARS, another Air Force initiative on campus.
Learn about an award to SLU for providing special military support.
Read what the Wichita Eagle said about Nott, a hometown hero

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