US Acute Care’s recognition that his military career enhances his clinical practice, and that his clinical practice contributes to his military career is part of what makes Lt Col Dr. Michael Policastro proud to become a USACS physician.
“When I raised my hand to take the oath, I knew that I could never separate the person from the military,” Policastro said. “My service and my profession are both vital to my personhood, my identity. There’s no separation in my mind. No matter which ‘uniform’ I’m wearing, the culture of service is central to my core beliefs.”
Policastro is part of a US Air Force specialized unit called the critical care air transport team (CCATT). The team includes a physician, critical care nurse and a respiratory therapist who provide cohesive advanced life sustaining critical medical treatment during air en-route transport from the theatre of operation to the final echelon of care. During his recent deployment in support of Operation Inherent Resolve and Freedom’s Sentinel, Policastro and his teammates flew missions throughout the Middle East and Asia aiding in the care of wounded or sick warriors.
“Caring for these brave men and women has been a profoundly rewarding endeavor, as well as an honor and a privilege,” he said.
On the homefront
While Policastro is overseas, he is grateful that USACS will allow him to serve without financial threat to his family, as part of its generous military leave benefit.
“USACS’ commitment to military families and respect for what we do is what drew me to the practice,” Policastro said. “The USACS culture and ethos aligns with my vision of service. Colonel (retired) Dr. Linda Lawrence was instrumental as a liaison for me between military service and USACS. She represents elite professionalism at the junction of civilian and military medical practice. She is an outstanding mentor and leader for whom I have the highest regard. All the members of USACS have been very welcoming and supportive of my military service and the commitment this entails.”
And, he added, his military service certainly benefits his hospital patients. For example, he has received invaluable training and experience in the latest techniques with regard to damage control resuscitation, principles of hemostasis, blood replacement, and traumatic brain injury management.
“But the most important lessons I’ve learned in the military were the Air Force’s core values instilled into me: integrity first, service before self, and excellence in everything we do,” he said. “When you’re deployed, you’re away from every single distraction, and you’re 100 percent mission-focused. You need to rely on each other’s skill sets, and you really have to know what your strengths and your weaknesses are. If you’re not self-aware, you’re putting everybody else – and the whole mission – in danger. There’s no room for ego. The team and mission come before the individual. These lessons translate well to the ED.”
Policastro noted that his deployment was among the most intense experiences of his life.
“I can’t even put into words the emotional connection you develop for the people you serve with, as well as your patients ,” he said. “When you pick up a young man or a young woman who has been sick or badly injured, you say to them, ‘You’re safe. We’ll take care of you. We’ve got you.’ It is a tremendously gratifying feeling to provide care in their moment of need.”
While on Shift
Every hospital shift, Dr. Policastro wears a white coat embroidered with the American flag and a US Air Force patch.
“It reminds me of what my service commitment means to me,” he said. “It’s always on me because it represents me, who I am, what I am, what I’m doing, and why.”