Journal of Religion and Health

, 50:527 | Cite as

Gray Matters: A Deployed Physician’s Perspective on Combat Medicine in Iraq

  • Heather X. CeresteEmail author


A female physician who was serving as a first-year medicine resident in Manhattan in September 2001 writes this paper. It details her experience of signing up for military service as a result of the September 11th attack on the United States. She lays out the surroundings, atmosphere, and reactions of those around her during the attack and details her own personal motivations for joining the military, her need to take control and help those in need heal while also trying to heal herself. Grateful, yet haunted by her experience, she provides an intimate glimpse into her time serving as a combat physician at a trauma hospital in Balad, Iraq during the 2007 military surge. A trained geriatrician and palliative care physician she recounts the stories of several patients that have forever shaped her life and explores the contradictions and ethical challenges she faced while caring for them ultimately struggling with the uncertainty of whether what she was truly doing was good for those she served or herself.


Military medicine September 11th Narrative medicine Iraq hospital Bioethics Trauma medicine Military triage Ethical dilemma 


  1. Pessoa, F. (2006). A light a little larger than the entire universe. In R. Zenith (Ed.). New York: Penguin Classics.Google Scholar
  2. Scott, N. A. (1969). The unquiet vision: Mirrors of man in existentialism. Cleveland: World Publishing.Google Scholar
  3. Szul, A. C., Davis, L. B., Maston, B. G., Wise, D., & Sparacino, L. R. (Eds.). (2004). Emergency war surgery: Third United States revision. Washington DC: Department of Defense.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Public Health Weill Cornell Medical CollegeNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations