Operating Room: through a surgeon's eyes

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Matthew Lotz
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
The operating room is prepped and ready for the doctor.

The doctor arrives; hands sterilized, she walks over to her technician to don her gown.

She reads the medical report aloud for everyone in the room to concur and begins the operation.

Lt. Col. (Dr.) Sandra Early, 31st Surgical Operations Squadron surgical services medical director, is a 17-year experienced surgeon who wears many hats, to include deputy chief of the medical staff, deputy squadron commander for the Surgical Operations Squadron and doctor.

Early, one of nine surgeons, was responsible for 291 of the 656 surgical cases last year.

"My main duty is to take care of any general surgery patient in this DOD area, to include geographically separated units and embassies in Europe," said Early. "That includes biopsies, emergency appendectomies, isolated trauma cases, endoscopy/colonoscopies, managing most cancers and backing up other surgeons with any life-threatening bleeding."

Early realizes the number of surgeries performed could have never been possible without the help of surgical technicians, like Airman 1st Class Sylvia Zamora, 31st Surgical Operations Squadron surgical technician.

"I rely on her to have the room set up and have the correct instruments," explained Early. "Actually, a lot of times, Zamora will already have the tool ready before I even ask."

Early explains that technicians are required to have a diverse skill set for each surgeons practice. "The tech has to be a jack of all trades," she explains.

According to Early, while in the OR, everyone is a team. The relationship between the surgeon and surgical tech is a unique officer/enlisted work environment. The surgeon must be able to rely on their technician to anticipate what's going to happen next for the procedure to go smoothly.

"You can't do the case without the tech. Surgery is a full contact, team sport," said Early. "I have the upmost confidence in Zamora. I could easily walk out of the room and let her close up and dress the wound."

While her relationship with the technicians at Aviano is close, Early finds herself in a different position during deployments, working with a surgical team of five --no technicians.

"Downrange, I am a part of a mobile field surgical team that consists of myself as a general surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon, an emergency room doctor, an OR nurse and an anesthetist," she said. "Because of the bond I have with the techs, I would love to have them beside me downrange."

Early agrees the relationship between a surgeon and her technician is similar to one only mothers know.

"I feel like their Mom. When in the OR, I try and teach them throughout the case. We have great techs here and I want to be the leader and mentor that gives them the experience to succeed," said Early.