Cho hands over command of Landstuhl hospital
LANDSTUHL, Germany — Nearly two years ago, Army Col. John M. Cho received a call from Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Cho was spending his first day as commander of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, but Gates wasn’t calling to offer congratulations. He wanted to check on a patient in the intensive care unit he had seen during a recent visit to the hospital.
“That’s when it hit me. This is a very special place,” said Cho, who on Wednesday handed command of the medical center to Army Col. Jeff B. Clark.
All injured troops pass through Landstuhl, which has posted an unprecedented survivability rate of more than 99 percent. Cho credits this achievement to the 3,000-strong staff, which includes active-duty servicemembers from all four branches, as well as civilians and German nationals. Last year, the hospital earned three national awards from the Association of Military Surgeons of the United States, including one for best overall care among military and veterans’ hospitals.
“We are blessed to have a truly dedicated team that is at the forefront of military medicine,” said Cho, who is taking over the 30th Medical Command in Heidelberg.
During Cho’s tenure, the hospital was also reverified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level II Trauma Center, the only U.S. hospital overseas to hold that distinction. It recently underwent verification for Level I status, meaning that the hospital’s staff is also teaching and doing innovative research. The inspectors found dozens of commendations and zero deficiencies, Cho said. Now the hospital awaits a final review from the ACS’ board.
Cho, a cardiothoracic surgeon who had previously deployed to Iraq, was well aware of the devastating injuries of modern warfare when he arrived at Landstuhl. But he said what surprised him most about the medical center, the largest American hospital overseas, was its “sheer number of patients.” Since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan began, more than 62,000 troops have been treated at the hospital.
Clark, a family medicine physician, previously commanded the 65th Medical Brigade in Korea, and prior to that, was in charge of the 21st Combat Support Hospital, where he led relief missions in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. The unit also deployed to Iraq, where its members provided health care to detainees.
Clark said he hopes to uphold Landstuhl’s imposing legacy.
“For someone who has had the privilege of wearing the uniform for 27 years,” he said, “I consider this a dream come true.”