David Petraeus, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency and retired four-star general, sat down with the Dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC, Dr. Carmen Puliafito to discuss military healthcare and strategic leadership as a part of the Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer series at USC’s Health Sciences campus.
Petraeus, who has been called one of the most effective military leaders in recent U.S. history, now holds the Judge Widney Professor seat in USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy and also serves as chairman of the Kohlberg Kravis Roberts Global Institute.
The Dean’s Distinguished Lecturer Series has brought renowned individuals to the USC Health Sciences campus to discuss current critical health care issues. Earlier this year, the series hosted Amgen chairman and CEO Robert A. Bradway and Dr. David B. Agus, author of The New York Times #1 bestselling book, The End of Illness.
During the lecture, Petraeus and Puliafito discussed the status of veteran affairs in this country and medical support for service members.
“There’s no doubt that we need to do more, but there’s also no doubt that we have done a great deal, and we’re in the process of doing even more,” Petraeus said. “The challenge, though, is that we have people surviving that never would have survived before … leaving the battlefield with life-altering injuries and wounds.”
Petraeus cited improvements in battlefield response times due to improved technologies and medical knowledge as the main reason for the increased survival rate for service members who suffer serious injuries in combat. He said some of the worst damage can be the lasting psychological impact after soldiers return from combat.
“It’s actually when that individual goes home, and the band stops playing and the flag stops flying,” Petraeus said.
Petraeus spent the day touring the USC Health Science campus, visiting various research centers and operating rooms and meeting with medical students. Petraeus also visited the LAC+USC Navy Trauma Training Center. Four leaders from the Navy Trauma Training Center program, Commander Patricia Hasen, Commander Michael Kearns, Lieutenant Commander Kimberly Syres and Lieutenant Commander Daniel Grabo attended the lecture.
For the past 12 years, the Keck School of Medicine of USC has trained health professionals in the LAC+USC Navy Trauma Training Center. According to Puliafito, the doctors and nurses trained through the program have saved the lives of thousands of service members and civilians.
“It was an honor to have General Petraeus visit our program today. He’s an incredible leader and a role model, especially for those of us in uniform,” Syres said.
Puliafito was grateful for Petraeus’ visit to the Health Sciences campus.
“He’s the most inspiring speaker we’ve had here. He established a real personal [connection ] with everyone he met here, with the students and the Navy Trauma Training Center. He was very engaged with what is happening here at USC.”
Petraeus also told of his efforts to reduce violence in Iraq during the surge and slow the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan during comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency campaigns. He cited the book Grant Takes Command by Bruce Catton as an inspiration during the early days of the surge in Iraq.
“The determination that Grant showed was really extraordinary,” Petraeus said. “All those in uniform have experienced those tough days … and that’s when you just have to hang tough. You can’t let your shoulders slump.”