During the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Richard Manos, MD, was a spine surgeon at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego. He vividly remembers performing a lumbar discectomy on a young Marine captain at the same time as the terror that was unfolding was being broadcasted on the hospital televisions. Two decades later, the same patient still thinks of Dr. Manos on 9/11. This year, that patient reached out with a message of thanks, expressing gratitude for the successful surgery that allowed him to have a successful career in the U.S. Marine Corps, and also for Dr. Manos’ own service. Dr. Manos served 16 years in the U.S. Navy. Here is a portion of that letter of thanks:

On September 11, 2001, you performed an L5-S1 discectomy on me … while my wife and newborn daughter were in the waiting room watching the news of the terrible events in NYC+.  … I thought I would reach out (22 years later) and let you know how much of a difference you made.  I went on to have a successful career as a Marine Infantry Officer … In the end, I hope there is never any doubt on whether you made a significant and lasting impact on people and/or national security during your time in uniform.  I am sure that I am but one example.  … Semper Fidelis, 

Today, Dr. Manos is an orthopaedic spine surgeon with the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network. He practices at the Froedtert & MCW Sheboygan Clinic and Holy Family Memorial Harbor Town campus. His father served in World War II, and Dr. Manos knew from a young age that he also wanted to serve. After medical school, Dr. Manos enlisted in the Navy and went to flight school at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, in Florida. He became a flight surgeon, which is a medical officer specializing in aviation medicine. Dr. Manos was embedded with the Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367. 

U.S. Navy flight surgeon, Richard Manos, MD, at Camp Humphreys in South Korea (1994), about 40 miles south of Seoul.

“Being an aviator in the military has its own special circumstances,” Dr. Manos said. “The job of the flight surgeon is to care for those officers as their primary care physician. You can’t do that unless you understand what they’re going through, which is why flight surgeons go through flight training, in addition to medical training that is specific to aviation, such as aerospace neurology, psychiatry and ophthalmology.”

After three deployments, to South Korea, Japan and Somalia, Dr. Manos returned stateside and decided to specialize in orthopaedic surgery with a focus on spinal conditions. He completed a residency in orthopaedic surgery at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and pursued a fellowship in spine surgery at SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse, New York. Dr. Manos returned to work at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego and later, worked at the Spine Institute of Idaho, as well as at the VA Medical Center in Boise, Idaho, where he volunteered once a week.

“I am passionate about helping our veterans,” Dr. Manos said. “I care about making it easy for veterans to get high-quality care close to home. The military is a tight-knit community, and I’ve treated many veterans over the years who have touched my life in some way.”

Dr. Manos says his career in the Navy shaped him as a person and as a doctor in how he interacts with his patients.

“Being deployed and around people of different cultures, backgrounds and from all walks of life teaches you a lot about how to relate to people,” Dr. Manos said. “Everyone has a story, and it’s very important for me to understand each patient’s unique life circumstances and how their diagnosis or condition impacts them. Ultimately, this helps me tailor their treatment plan, so they can have the best quality of life possible.”

Thank you to our veterans, active-duty members and reservists for your service to our country. Veterans Day, observed annually on Nov. 11, is an official public holiday honoring military veterans — people who served in the U.S. Armed Forces.