In the News

Physician Member Profiled for Long Military Career, Latest Mission

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June 25, 2010

AARC member Col. William Bernhard, MD, has seen a lot during his many years of military service, which began 60 years ago and is still going strong today.

Despite a long and fruitful civilian career—including private practices in Vermont and Maryland, a professorship at New York University Medical Center, and a stint as chief of anesthesia at the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Maryland—he’s taken time out to serve with Army, Navy, Marine, Air Force, and National Guard units, deploying to locations around the world.

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Dr. Bill Bernhard, on assignment in Germany, has also served the AARC as an advisor for many years.

Along the way, he’s written lesson plans for the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School, headed up anesthesia at military hospitals, been part of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s protection detail, served as a combat team surgeon in Iraq, and earned his master flight surgeon wings.

But his final tour of duty—the 79-year-old says this will, indeed, be his last—involves a mission close to his heart.

As the soldier readiness physician at the Hohenfels Health Clinic in Germany, Col. Bernhard is working to ensure soldiers are better prepared to handle not just the physical, but also the emotional tolls of combat.

Col. Bernhard took on the mission in part because he saw his own wife, a Navy nurse in Vietnam and later a nurse and physician’s assistant in the Army National Guard, struggle with PTSD herself.

Tom Paolillo, RRT-NPS, (left) meets with his mentor and long-time friend Dr. Bernhard. Paolillo is clinical education coordinator at the U.S. Dept of Veterans Affairs, NY Harbor Healthcare System in New York City.

“It is a crusade,” he was quoted as saying in this article in the Bavarian News. “I want the Army to do a better job in preventing or lessening the signs and symptoms (of PTSD) because it is so debilitating.”

Like all his military service, Col. Bernhard says this last mission is one he is proud to fulfill. “I serve one, because I want to, but most of all because of the men and women that wear the uniforms of our armed services and the NATO countries we serve with. I consider it a privilege and an honor that I’ve been given the opportunity to continue to do it as long as I have.”