Dr. J. Milo Sewards is our first PA Surgeon In the Spotlight!
Dr. Sewards, a practicing orthopaedic surgeon at Temple University Hospital Orthopaedic Surgery and Sports Medicine in Philadelphia, recently completed his second tour of duty in the Middle East. So we approached him to talk about his life and received a very compelling story in return!
What made you decide to serve our country?
I don’t know that my decision to join the Navy was a single deliberate occurrence but came from a childhood in which I was raised to achieve but to also help others when and where I could. Both of my grandfathers served in the Navy during World War II, but their experiences were never really something that we discussed.
By the time I was looking at going to college, I went so far as to obtain a congressional appointment to attend the Naval Academy. The idea of trying to compete for one of a few spots for graduating midshipmen to go to medical school scared me away. I now regret that I didn't accept that challenge. So when I did go to medical school, I investigated the Health Professions Scholarship Program. My uncle, who is a Family Practitioner, had gone through the Army HPSP program, and he was a great resource for me.
It has been through my time on active duty and in the Navy Reserves that I learned to appreciate the rewards of having “served our country.” I have come to a deeper understanding that in large part, the reward of service is in the service itself.
How did your Orthopaedic training support you?
I was fortunate to have trained at Temple Hospital, where I have been on the faculty since I completed my active duty obligation. Though my current practice is in Sports Medicine, I had an education in Orthopaedic Trauma that is difficult to match. The types of injuries that we saw and continue to see in North Philadelphia have a direct applicability to many combat injuries, and the principles that I learned prepared me for my career in the military.
As for the support of my current practice, I am fully aware that if it weren’t for the faculty at Temple, I would not have been able to deploy to Iraq. I knew that my patients, residents, and students would be taken care of. Knowing that allowed me to focus on the task at hand. Of course, I’d have to say the same thing about my wife and her ability to manage everything at home, so I didn’t have to worry about that either.
What did you take away from this experience that you would like to share with us?
The most significant take-away from my deployment was the honor to be able to wear the uniform and take care of the most deserving patients in the world. There are numerous frustrations and inconveniences that go with military service, especially in an austere, forward deployed base. However, I think that it is all worth it. Now, I did partake in some griping, as I think everyone does who has served even to the point of perfecting the art. That being said, I wouldn’t trade the experiences I had or the friendships I made.
Additionally, I will always remember the incredible capability and competence of American service members, both active duty and reserve, enlisted and officers. Of course, there are exceptions, otherwise books like Catch 22 and shows like MASH wouldn’t exist, but I was consistently impressed by my colleagues in our expeditionary medical unit. It also underscored the need for readily available physicians, nurses, and ancillary staff in what are critical wartime specialties.
My service doesn’t mean that everyone must be willing to put on a uniform and go halfway across the world. Whether it is by providing experiences for a medic or a Navy Corpsman in a trauma unit or training a medical student or resident who is entering military service, I encourage people to explore how they can help.
"I have come to a deeper understanding that in large part, the reward of service is in the service itself."
J. Milo Sewards, MD