In honor of November being Veterans’ and Military Month, Spectrum News 1 takes a look at the military experience of a veteran who was part of Desert Storm and how that experience in active duty prepared him for the life of a surgeon.

What You Need To Know

  • Dr. Steven Schwaitzberg began his military career as a reservist

  • He then was transferred to 365th EVAC Hospital in Niagara Falls and was sent over seas for Operation Desert Storm

  • His biggest lessons from active duty were how to treat people with far less resources and his respect for people from all over the world

"I even watched the Super Bowl at 2:00 in the morning in a tent losing to the Giants, unfortunately," Dr. Steven Schwaitzberg, director of surgical programs at Kaleida Health and ECMC, said.

Dr. Schwaitzberg is the director of surgical programs at Kaleida Health and ECMC. When he graduated from surgical residency and took his first job - his boss, who was an Army colonel, suggested he join the reserves. His first unit was in Boston, and then he got transferred to the 365th Evac Hospital from Niagara Falls and went to Operation Desert Storm with them.

"On the day our hospital opened, we actually didn't have any blood and a patient was transferred with a bleeding problem and we had to line up the soldiers. And every soldier has a set of dog tags and we all donated blood to save our fellow soldier," he said.

Dr. Schwaitzberg served seven months in active duty during Operation Desert Storm in Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.

"Well, in your surgical training, they don't ever train you to do surgery in a tent. So doing surgery in a tent and seeing all kinds of diseases that, you know, we don't see here. You learn about people and their access to health care and fundamental all the different ways we took care of not only our own soldiers, but we also took care of prisoners of war. We took care of all, all different kinds of people. And you learn a lot about the world," he said.

Dr. Schwaitzberg says during his time in active duty he learned a lot, and was able to bring that newfound knowledge back to his career.

"One of the things when you come back to is you come to understand and appreciate, you know, a lot of what we have of how much people can do with far less resource," he said. "Our hospitals here in Buffalo, where we are well cared for and our ability to care for our patients is really terrific. But the lessons that you learn about respect and decency from people from all over the world, you know, those lessons are some of those lessons are taught by serving in the military."

Being a civil air patrol cadet before joining the reserves, Dr. Schwaitzberg had considered a career in the military and when the opportunity came to be a reservist, he was willing to do his fair share.

"This is a great country. You know, times are up and down. But I still think this is one of the greatest places you could ever possibly live on this planet. And I'm happy to have served my country," he said.

Dr. Schwaitzberg says for someone who is exploring the medical field, signing up to be a reservist and being an Army or Air Force medic is a good way to build clinical experience.