Deployments Make Army Guard Doctor a Better Hometown Physician
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. - Ebola and malaria aren’t diseases doctors working in the hometown of the Baseball Hall of Fame normally expect to encounter.
But Dr. William LeCates, a kidney specialist and medical director of Bassett Healthcare Center has experience with both diseases, as well as battlefield medicine, as a result of his “other” career as Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) William LeCates, a New York Army National Guard doctor.
His military career, said LTC LeCates, has only served to make him a better physician overall.
LTC LeCates joined the New York Army Guard in 2009, putting his knowledge and skills to work for American and allied military personnel.
He said he always had an interest in serving in the military, but medical school, establishing a medical practice, and having three kids along the way meant putting off that aspiration.
Finally, with his family settled in Cooperstown, his practice established, and the realization that at age 39, he needed to join the military now or never, he decided to seek a commission in the Army Medical Corps.
“The Guard was a perfect fit for me,” he said. “I knew we could stay in our home, Debbie (his wife) and my kids could be secure and fixed in our schools and the community, and I could carry out my military duties.”
LTC LeCates serves as a member of the New York Guard’s Medical Command, or MEDCOM. He conducts medical readiness assessments at Camp Smith Training Site and Fort Drum, and treats Soldiers during training periods.
His service has also meant deploying overseas, including twice to Afghanistan and once to Liberia.
His first deployment in 2010 was with the Iowa Army National Guard’s 334th Brigade Support Battalion at Camp Blackhorse, Afghanistan, as an augmentee to the battalion’s medical company.
LTC LeCates worked in a barebones medical clinic – “Role 1” in military parlance – where the job was to provide basic primary care, emergency treatment for injuries and wounds, and stabilize patients so they could be transported to more sophisticated treatment facilities.
His second three-month deployment, the standard for reserve component doctors, was in New Kabul Compound, an American military facility in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital city, in 2013.
This time he worked at a major U.S. forces headquarters as one of the physicians for 800 American personnel. The compound was also adjacent to an Afghan military hospital, where he worked with Afghan medical personnel to treat casualties.
LTC LeCates’ most recent deployment was a six-month non-combat mission to the West African country of Liberia, where he had an opportunity to see medical care at both the individual and large-scale levels, as the country dealt with the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak.
“The country is small enough, and the cities are close enough, that in a single day I could be in a Liberian clinic looking at young kids that are getting malaria, and in the evening I could be working at the ministry of health and helping to understand their Ebola response efforts.”
Overall, his military experience has been a tremendous benefit to his work as a doctor back home in Cooperstown, a place he chose for his career because he gets to perform complicated, challenging medicine in a small-town setting, LTC LeCates said.
“I think military leadership training is the best type of leadership training available,” he said. “I am fortunate in my civilian job to have an opportunity for a medical administrative role here at the hospital, and that [military] training in mentoring and motivating helps.”
The military medical system is also very effective at using lessons learned, and making on-the-spot improvements in clinical care, he added.
“The civilian sector is slower at those changes. It has given me a chance to look at how a big system can bring about changes to make improvements,” LTC LeCates said, adding that military doctors have pioneered new trauma care techniques on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, and knowing those skills is always useful.
“The Army is very good at training its deploying doctors to understand the basics of point-of-injury care, and how to keep the Soldier safe,” he said.
So, if you have an interest in the medical field and serving in the Army National Guard, you don’t have to wait until you’re done with medical school to join. Visit our job board to learn more about these Guard careers:
Experienced nurses, doctors, and veterinarians also are needed. Contact your local recruiter to learn more about any questions you have.
From an original article by Eric Durr, New York National Guard, which appeared in the news section of NationalGuard.mil in March 2017.