While Memorial Day was properly recognized in the remembrance of the men and women who died while serving their country in the United States Armed Forces this past Monday, thanks and recollection should also go to those who have served in the military and continue to serve in some military capacity as well as those who work in their militarily learned professions today.
Three such men are employed at Estero Island Medical Care. All three served our country in different ways and have different backgrounds, yet share the same passion for their practice.
M. Lawrence Kaplan MD, Certified Physician Associate F. Christopher Reaves and Certified Physician Assistant Alexander Menkes have the combat training to bring a cool, calm and collective experience into the Beach family practice clinic environment.
Estero Island Medical Care owners Jo and Henry Rothenberg, longtime Beach residents, have much respect for their “military-run clinic” physicians. Here, Certified Physician Associate F. Christopher Reaves (l) helps hold up the U.S. flag that he fought under as a Marine in the Vietnam War.
Estero Island Medical Care owners Jo and Henry Rothenberg, longtime Beach residents, began the business more than 40 years ago, sold it to a doctor that used to practice in the building and re-took over operations in late 2011. The three military medical providers arrived soon after. They are called efficient, cordial, qualified and compassionate.
"These guys take everything in stride," said Henry. "On Alex's first day, we had someone with a major heart issue. But, they've seen it all, and are very smart guys. They are also very organized and keep great documentation, due to military training. When these guys came in, they just seemed so competent and confident."
While Reaves is a former Marine, both Kaplan and Menkes served in the Army and actually met in Fort Riley (Kan.) Military Post on separate assignments. The two became friends and remained friends. Menkes actually referred Kaplan to the Rothenbergs for the medical director position at Estero Island Medical Care.
"We found out we both lived in Florida, struck up a friendship and have been friends ever since," said Kaplan. "We decided it would be helpful to (join forces on the Beach). Now, with Chris, we have a military-run clinic."
Kaplan is now retired from the military, but Reaves and Menkes still serve as defense contractors for military medical provider. In fact, Reaves' most recent assignment in supoort of Army National Guard in April 2013 in New Mexico, giving physicals to 150 to 300 soldiers during a two-day span, while Menkes' most recent assignment was in the same state doing practically the same work earlier this month.
Although the three medically trained men have not worked together under the same roof during the same shift due to one provider being employed per day during offseason and two during season, there is much respect for each other. Even though Reaves has never even met Kaplan, they know about each other. The former Marine has met and worked with Menkes.
"We work together quite well and have intertwined thoughts and treatment modalities," Reaves said. "That's the way we were trained. You walk into the situation and everything just meshes. We follow off each other's leads."
Reaves, born in Virginia, served in both active and reserve duty from 1964 to 1971. He enlisted in the Marines a day after his 17th birthday. In fact, he stated he was the youngest marine to serve in Vietnam when he stepped off the plane on March 20, 1965. While his first assignment there was a heavy truck driver, transporting 500-pound bombs to be placed on the jets and transports for "disposal," it became "really boring" to him, so he volunteered as a door gunner on helicopters. That is where he received his first experience in the medical field.
"We had enough wounded on board and I was asked to hold bags of IV fluid with my other hand on a M60 machine gun with a Corpsman working right behind me on the injured," he said. "I thought that was pretty exciting work. The first group of physician assistants were originally Corpsmen out of Vietnam.That is how the concept of the term physician assistant or associate started."
Menkes, like Reaves, joined the military right out of high school. He served with distinguished merit as a U.S. Army flight surgeon and a helicopter pilot in Iraq. He was selected and trained in both capacities.
According to his bio, Menkes was qualified in five different types of military aircraft, graduated from John Hopkins (Md.) University Hospital program in 1994 and was a helicopter pilot. He even trained some of Iraqi Air Force in Aviation medicine. Menkes was awarded many military decorations and awards during his 25 years of service and retired as a Major in 2011. He joined Estero Island Medical Care in December of 2012.
"The owners work and live here, so they are dedicated to and an integral part of the community," said Menkes. "I think it is a great center to service those of the island."
Kaplan, unlike Reaves and Menkes, went from high school to college at Hofstra University, then to the University of Nebraska Medical Center where, after publishing his research, and receiving his Masters of Science degree in Medical Microbiology he attended and graduated school at the University of Maryland School of Medicine where he obtained his Doctor of Medicine degree, It was during his post-graduate surgical training that he joined the military on Sept. 11, 1983. He retired from the US Army in 2005.
Kaplan is a lifetime member of the Special Operations Medical Association and the Society of US Army Flight Surgeons. As a Forensic Medicine Physician he serves to review clinical medical records for many states, including the State of Florida, as well as the Department of Health and acts as a consultant and expert witness in preparing reports based upon these records. He is an active member of FEMA's Disaster Medical Assistant Team, has served as the Medical Director of the Central Florida Red Cross' Emergency Response Program and taught for the Association of Voluntary Agencies for Caribbean Action. He is the Medical Director of the Condono Global Health Systems, LLC, where he brings a wealth of experience to the arena of private investigations. Dr. Kaplan has observed and treated thousands of patients involving acute trauma and short term and long-term disabilities. He consults, reviews and advises the CEO and his subordinates on each and every forensic case in reference to the aforementioned investigations.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Kaplan currently has a practice, is a retired Colonel in the Army and medical commander for two states. He is a flight surgeon and also practices forensic and emergency medicine. While more private in his contracted work in forensics, he was reached by phoned and relayed a bit about almost getting drafted for the Vietnam War.
"During the Vietnam draft, I was No. 49 and the lottery system went to No. 48 as I was chewing my fingernails off," he said. "When I did go in, I went in voluntarily."
Kaplan also commented about his extensive field command experience in Bosnia from September 1997 to September 1998. His most memorable experience was being promoted to full bird Colonel in 1999. He was also a flight surgeon for NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration as well as a U.S. Army Flight Surgeon. He received numerous military awards inclusive of the Bronze Service Star, NATO Award and Meritorious Service Medal.
"I was deployed for and served in Desert Storm part one before we knew there would be a part two," he said.
Reaves has a memento from his most memorable experience - a scar caused by a "pungi stick" (a bamboo stake sharpened on one end, dipped in cow manure and placed in a hole in the ground).
"When you step in a hole, it is supposed to inflict as much damage as it could and cause infection," he said.
Reaves has more than 27 years in a variety of Medical Specialties which include Primary Care, Urgent Care, Emergency Medicine, Internal Medicine and Geriatrics.
Formerly of San Diego, CA. and Alexandria, Virginia, he graduated from Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, W.V. He did his clerkship at West Virginia University in Morgantown, W.V. He completed his graduate studies at Columbia State University obtaining a combined Masters of Science and Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
He has served as a U.S. Combat Marine Veteran starting in Vietnam and ending as a Medical Provider for the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army National Guard. For his service he was awarded a number of military awards and decorations including two Presidential Unit Citations for combat operations as well as several campaign ribbons.
Reaves explained the difference between being in the military as a regular soldier and being in the military in the medical field
"There is military, and there is military medicine," he said. "When you're in the military, rank, structure, etiquette, protocol must be followed, but military medicine is a little more slack"
The longtime TV series M.A.S.H. comes to mind.
"I would probably be a combination Hawkeye and Colonel Blake," said Kaplan. "While in Bosnia, I received (jokingly) the Hawkeye Pierce Award and I was the Officer in Charge of Theater Operations."
"We weren't a medical transport per se, but there were times when we had helicopters coming in with wounded and under fire just like on the television series," said Reaves. "Someone like Alex would fly in, pick up wounded and transport them or serve as a physician assistant at a airfield hospital for stabilization. (The wounded) would then be flown into Turkey, Italy or Germany at bigger hospitals."
Reaves heard about EIMC through an Internet ad while in California. He was hired and re-established a home in Cape Coral (he lived there during a stint at Southwest Regional Hospital). He likes the Beach facility more than the corporate hospital.
"The greater the autonomy, the better I like it," he said. "After 27 years of doing this, you know what to second guess and determine what is needed, whereas the younger docs are still in the framework of going through the steps they learned in Med school instead of the shoot-from-the-hip approach.
Kaplan is also enjoying his time at Estero Island Medical Care.
"It's a great place. We get it done right the first time, and the people there are top notch," Kaplan said.
The military adventures for all three men have taken them near and far.
"We go pretty much anywhere where there is a national guard base," said Reaves. "I've been to Guam. Alex has been to Puerto Rico and Dr. Kaplan has been all over the U.S. and to some very remote places such as Guam and The Republic of the Marshall Islands. There is not much difference between field experience and being under fire versus an emergency room on a full moon."
Menkes calls his career in the military forces "colorful" and took time to reflect on the soldiers that didn't make it home during the Memorial Day weekend.
"I've had a great career, but let's not forget the Memorial Day focus of those who didn't get to finish their's," he said.
Estero Island Medical Care
Estero Island Medical Care opened the day after Hurricanes Charley and Wilma.
"We had no electric, used flash lights to take people inside and gave them free tetanus shots," said Henry Rothenberg. "We did that because we live here. It's not just about public relations or money, its really about medical care. It was a good feeling to contribute there."
The Rothenbergs are Beach residents, care about the well-being of Beach residents and visitors and want to get the word out that, although the business closed for a short time in 2011 when the business was run by someone else, they are back as property and business owners and want the community to know they are firm on their business hours. They are open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m from Monday through Friday and 9 to 1 on Saturday.
"We want to be consistent," said Henry.
Estero Island Medical Care offers anything from nutritional supplements to physicals to immunizations to pregnancy tests to internal medicine to minor surgery. They are fortunate to have digital x-ray and lab work available on the premises.
"We are one of three games in town, but we are the most complete game in town," said Reaves. "Anything that walks through that front door, we can handle."