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Capt. Joseph May, brigade surgeon for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, was recently selected for an Army medical fellowship. May will be trained to serve as one of the Army's 10 pediatric cardiologists.
Capt. Joseph May, brigade surgeon for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, was recently selected for an Army medical fellowship. May will be trained to serve as one of the Army's 10 pediatric cardiologists. (John Vandiver / S&S)

BAUMHOLDER, Germany — Soon, Capt. Joseph May will be leading his team of doctors into Iraq as the brigade surgeon for the deploying soldiers of the 1st Armored Division.

But instead of spending a full deployment in Iraq with the 1st AD’s 2nd Brigade, the Army physician’s time downrange will be cut short so he can fill another Army need.

Earlier this month, May was selected by the Graduate Medical Education Selection Board for a fellowship to train as a pediatric cardiologist.

“It’s a specialty that fascinates me,” May said. “It’s fun to be able to do old-school medicine.”

The Army maintains a staff of 10 doctors trained in the pediatric cardiology specialty. As specialists retire or cycle out of the Army, new doctors are selected to fill the positions. On Dec 15, May learned he had been selected to fill an opening slot.

One in 100 children suffers from some sort of heart problem, May said. As a result, a specialist is required at every neo-natal ICU clinic.

Since his days as a medical school student at Penn State University, May said he’s been drawn to the field of pediatric cardiology.

For May, a classically trained pianist, pursuing a specialty in cardiology made for an unusual link between two of his great passions: medicine and music.

As an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins University, May minored in music and studied piano at the university’s famed Peabody Conservatory.

Cardiology, like music, requires a sensitive ear. Armed with a stethoscope, a cardiologist’s ears must be tuned to the rhythms of murmurs and other impairments, May said.

The decision to pursue a career in medicine instead of music, May said, was the result of his experience as a high school student volunteering at the Army health clinic in Grafenwöhr.

The son of Army Chaplain (Col.) James E. May, he grew up around installations in Germany.

“It was natural for me to stick with the military side of medicine,” May said.

May expects to start his three-year cardiology training program in August. Stanford University and several Washington, D.C.-area hospitals are among the places he is considering.

As for his current job as brigade surgeon, the work continues.

The 2nd Brigade Combat Team is slated to deploy to Iraq in early 2008. May said he hopes to stay on board as long as possible to make sure there’s a smooth transition downrange when a new brigade surgeon comes aboard.

“I want to be able to see it through and complete all the work we’re doing,” he said.

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John covers U.S. military activities across Europe and Africa. Based in Stuttgart, Germany, he previously worked for newspapers in New Jersey, North Carolina and Maryland. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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