Lough is clinical director of cardiac surgery at the George Washington University Hospital and a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserves Medical Corps. He will be deployed Friday to southern Afghanistan, where he will serve on a forward surgical team for three months. Lough was also deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.
What will your duties be in Afghanistan?
My duties will be to work in a forward surgical team, performing emergency surgery in support of combat operations.
What are some of the greatest challenges of working in the environment of Afghanistan?
The greatest challenges are to recognize it's an austere environment -- that you as a surgeon are removed from your normal operating conditions. It's a hash environment. Patients will be arriving off the battlefield. Sometimes you know what their conditions are, and sometimes you don't. Assessing the patients can be a challenge because of the nature of the location. You are removed from the machines and devices you get used to in major medical centers.
What do you think you're going to miss the most while you're away?
My family and my dog.
What is the most rewarding part of serving as a surgeon and a colonel?
The rewards are huge. First, I'm trained as a surgeon and train as a soldier. The last time I was in Afghanistan, I was overwhelmed by the spirit of everybody pulling for each other. I didn't hear a single complaint. I never hear a single person say, 'It's not my turn,' or 'Why am I here?' I would like the American people to recognize what is really happening there. Our men and women are in a war zone. Every day-and-a-half, we lose someone and many more are injured. I would ask them to try to learn about Afghanistan. This is still very much a war zone.