By: Lance Cpl. Jolene Bopp, MCAS Yuma Public Affairs
SAN DIEGO - Although military surgeons are putting more focus on those wounded in combat, they are also maintaining and improving their skills by performing non-combat related cosmetic surgeries.
Elective cosmetic surgeries are done because surgeons use the same skill sets needed to operate on those wounded in combat situations, said Navy Capt. Craig Salt, military plastic surgeon at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD). Service members who want, but don't need cosmetic surgery are required to pay for the surgery.
To help determine whether or not a cosmetic surgery is needed or wanted, patients must first see a health care provider. The provider will then submit a referral to Project Comprehensive Aesthetic Restorative Effort (C.A.R.E) section at NMCSD.
"Since 2005, all nonessential cosmetic services have costs," said Lt. Cmdr. Marie Manuel, Project C.A.R.E. coordinator. "Cosmetic surgery can be done upon availability of the surgeons. In light of the frequent deployments, cosmetic surgery has not been the focus."
Project C.A.R.E. was created in 2010 to help wounded warriors both physically and mentally by putting together a team of different specialty surgeons.
Frequent deployments have increased the need for specialty surgeons to treat injuries and even cosmetic damage to wounded warriors. Fees do not apply to service members wounded in combat.
"Project C.A.R.E. collaborates with the Comprehensive Combat and Complex Casualty Care (C5) program," said Salt, Project C.A.R.E developer. "C5 focuses on prosthetics, physical therapy, occupational therapy and rehabilitation."
Project C.A.R.E. focuses on several different procedures. Practices include reconstructive surgery, laser treatment for skin discoloration and mental health support.
Cosmetic surgeries don't just help physically, they also help emotionally.
"We created the program to help military members get back to their daily lives," said Salt. "Not with just the surgical reconstruction, but helping with their mental health as well."
Some patients are not ready emotionally to begin the process right away. C.A.R.E. also allows surgeons to keep track of military members who need or may want a procedure done, added Salt.
Currently, the program is only available at the NMCSD. Salt and Manuel are in the process of making the project nationwide for all military branches. They plan on meeting with representatives from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy to discuss the future of the program. Active duty service members interested in cosmetic surgery may speak to any health care provider to refer them to Project C.A.R.E., said Salt.
For more information Naval Medical Center San Diego's cosmetic surgery department visit http://www.med.navy.mil/sites/nmcsd/Patients/Pages/ProjectCARE.aspx or call 619-531-1468.