Healing in Harm’s Way

Years ago we published a story about one of our nation’s founding fathers, a country doctor from New Hampshire named Josiah Bartlett. Bartlett rose from humble origins to study medicine, moved to Kingston and set up a successful practice.But when his loyalty to the British Crown was replaced by revolutionary zeal, his house was mysteriously torched.

That crisis kept him from attending the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia, but he was a delegate at the second and was present when the Declaration of Independence was adopted, being first to vote and second (after John Hancock) to sign it.

The outcome of such an act of rebellion was far from certain back in 1774. Bartlett was placing himself as well as his family and landholdings in harm’s way. He survived, as did the new American experiment, and he later went on to found the New Hampshire Medical Society. He died in his rebuilt Kingston home in 1795.

It would sound noble to say we run such historic stories as a community service. In fact, the popular NBC-TV show “The West Wing” had borrowed Bartlett’s name for their lead character, so we were just jumping on the pop-culture bandwagon for a story, but we learned a thing or two about Bartlett and about New Hampshire in the process.

Each year when we conduct our Top Doctors poll we are, to a certain extent, on a kind of popular bandwagon. Readers love lists and rankings and they love to know the winners. We make the poll as fair as possible, and I’m sure that the doctors whose names rise to the top of the list are all worthy of all the praise they receive from their peers, but invariably we get complaints about beloved doctors who are overlooked.

But each year, in the process of pulling this issue together, we discover so much we didn’t know about the remarkable members of our state’s medical community — sometimes in unexpected ways. For example, in our Top Doctors poll form we always ask for each doctor’s name and location. This year one of the forms had a vote for “Dr. Sam Aldridge, vascular surgeon, Lakes Region General Hospital/Afghanistan.”

He wasn’t one of our top vote-getters, but that odd geographic reference inspired me to make a call to LRGH and here’s what I learned.

Dr. Aldridge is on his second tour with U.S. Medical Reserve serving in the Southeast Highlands of Afghanistan. His operating room is a tent where he provides medical care and surgery to U.S. troops, Afghan Army members, civilians and enemy combatants. When friends back in the states asked him how they could help, he told them that they were well supplied in most respects, but that patients’ feet got cold. Now, the community around LRGH is assisting with a project called “Socks and School Supplies for Sam,” collecting cozy footwear and other vital items to send to Afghanistan.

While he’s certainly not the only New Hampshire doctor serving his country and his fellow man while on duty in harm’s way, he serves as a symbol of the best of his profession and the high ideals that draw men and women into the field of medicine. (Click here for more information about Dr. Aldridge)

Goes to show that, even from the top of a bandwagon, a new point of view can be enlightening and inspiring

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