Real-life 'M*A*S*H': Baghdad battlefield doc to speak in Eureka Friday

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Many readers will recall the television show "M*A*S*H," which chronicled the exploits of military doctors in the field during the Korean War.

This Friday, Feb. 22 at 1 p.m., a real-life battlefield doctor will be in Eureka Springs telling his story.

Dr. Todd Baker, MC, FACEP, is a board-certified emergency physician who served as chief of "Baghdad ER" from November 2007 though January 2009. "Baghdad ER" was the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Iraq.

Originally from Arkansas, Baker went to medical school on the U.S. Army's HPSP scholarship. He entered active duty on finishing medical in July 2001 and trained in emergency medicine until graduating from residency in 2004. He then spent two yeas as the Regimental Surgeon of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment as it transitioned into one of the Army's Stryker Brigade Combat Teams.

Baker received both the Bronze Star and Combat Action badge for his service. After nearly 8 years on duty, Baker returned to civilian life and currently serves as co-medical director of the emergency department at Skaggs Regional Medical Center in Branson, Mo.

During his time in Baghdad, Baker's team of three emergency physicians, nine nurses and 16 medics treated thousands of critically wounded Americans, coalition forces and Iraqis alike.

"On my very first day in Baghdad I saw things I had never seen before in the United States," Baker said. "It wasn't just the type of injuries seen, but the strong system that was in place, where everyone involved with a patient knew exactly what to do without a word spoken. It was an amazing team."

Baker has written a book, "Baghdad ER," chronicling the adventures of the military's emergency room and the trauma team's attempts to squeeze lifesaving care into a frantic war zone.

Baker said his biggest fear writing the book was that it might cause old wounds to be reopened by a widow, mother or child reading it. "It was proven by others though, that this book can actually help heal," he said. "The platoon sergeant of a man [I had mentioned] in the excerpt [I posted online] contacted me the day after I posted it on my website. He told me how he remembered that night like it was yesterday and thanked me for sharing the story with others. The soldier's wife then contacted me, letting me know she too greatly appreciated what I was doing. That's what this book is all about: showing the world how hard our soldiers and medical units work to save lives."

Baker will be presenting "Lessons from Baghdad ER" at the Midwest First Responder Conference in Eureka on Friday.

"Since returning home," Baker said, "I have lectured on our experiences during these 15 months in multiple venues and thrive to tell of the amazing efforts of the American military to preserve life on the battlefield, and of our relentless efforts to save those who fell."

According to Baker's commanders in the field, Baker's hospital took more direct hits from rocket and mortar fire than any combat support hospital since the Vietnam War.

"Despite wave after wave of attack, our team never faltered and stood ready to care for our wounded at any time," Baker said. "

From the beginning, Dr. Baker knew he wanted to document what he learned and witnessed and share that information with the rest of the world. "I wanted the families of the fallen soldiers to know that their loved-one didn't just die and get left behind. I tell the story of how hard the soldiers in the field and in the medical units work to keep their buddies alive," says Baker.

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