Medical Center receives award for aiding Gulf War Guardsman

By Rachel Skei Donihoo / September 2010

During the Persian Gulf War, Staff Sgt. David Campbell, a National Guardsman, was grievously wounded in a Scud missile attack on his barracks in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Through an extraordinary series of events, UT Southwestern trauma surgeons were able to help save his life.

For those heroics in 1991 and the medical center’s continued commitment to our country’s service members, UT Southwestern was honored by the Commemorative Air Force (CAF) at a Memorial Day event in Midland.

UT Southwestern alumnus Dr. Charles Younger accepts the inaugural Staff Sgt. David Campbell for American Military Medical Excellence on behalf of
UT Southwestern at Memorial Day ceremonies in Midland.

Before a crowd of nearly 200 people assembled at the George H.W. and Barbara Bush Commemorative Center, the organization presented the medical center with the inaugural Staff Sgt. David Campbell Award for American Military Medical Excellence. Dr. Charles Younger, a Midland orthopaedic surgeon and 1968 graduate of UT Southwestern, accepted the award on behalf of the medical center.

“It was a proud day for UT Southwestern and for me, personally,” said Dr. Younger, also a member of the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. “I first heard the story of Sgt. Campbell years ago, and I remember being very moved by it. It’s wonderful that the CAF has created this award in his name, and I was honored to accept the first one on behalf of the medical center that holds so many memories for me.”

The Campbell Award will be given annually to a medical institution or manufacturer that has provided exceptional care to those wounded during military service, explained Frank Cahoon, a longtime member of the Commemorative Air Force.

“It’s a pleasure to be able to honor those whose heroics save the lives of our military men and women,” said Mr. Cahoon, a Midland resident and former state representative. “UT Southwestern has shown great strength and commitment to the care of our armed forces, so it is only fitting that it receive an award created in honor of the man whose life was saved by its exemplary physicians.”

Near death in a small armed-forces hospital nearly two decades ago, Sgt. Campbell was too gravely injured to be moved after the missile attack and was expected to live only a few hours. Desperate after learning of her husband’s grim prognosis, the young sergeant’s wife, Gail, phoned Dallas business and political icon Ross Perot for help.

Mr. Perot, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is a lifelong advocate for veterans and for those serving in the military. He immediately phoned Dr. Kern Wildenthal, then president of UT Southwestern, for advice and medical expertise. While Mr. Perot secured the approval and assistance of high-level Pentagon officials to provide logistical support, Dr. Wildenthal assembled a team of trauma surgeons, who then consulted via satellite link with Navy doctors more than 6,000 miles away.

Against all odds, and thanks to the skill and commitment of the hastily assembled team of doctors here and abroad, Sgt. Campbell survived.

“It’s a wonderful story, and this award is a tremendous honor for our institution,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, president of UT Southwestern. “It is a great privilege to serve those who have risked their lives for our country, and we’re very humbled to be recognized in such a meaningful way.”

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Dr. Podolsky holds the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science and the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery Jr., M.D., Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration.