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Alan Januceiviewz

Alan Janusceiviewz, MD, is a 25-year Army veteran, retiring as deputy assistant surgeon general. His long and distinguished career as an Army Medical Corps officer was largely spent in the field, bringing relief to the wounded.

Dr. Janusceiviewz recently served as chair of a volunteer recruitment board for an Army-funded study examining the benefits of the Hubbard detoxification program for Gulf War Veterans. He comments on the significance of this work, and how it fits in a long tradition of medical response to battlefield injuries.

The majority of my time spent as a physician while in active duty was not spent in a hospital environment. It was spent in the field, with soldiers, dealing with the needs and problems that soldiers face day in and day out.

I do have a perspective, I believe, on what our soldiers and veterans face in terms of medical challenges—and more than medical challenges. We have a tendency in our current society to try to medicalize everything. I’m not a big fan of that. I think we have life challenges, some of which have medical overtones. For the most part, we have to deal with life challenges.

Certainly, the art of warfare has evolved to the point where toxic exposure on the battlefield, in training, in garrison, anywhere on a military installation, has become a very real phenomenon.

I’m going to avoid the word “problem,” only for the moment because there are two ways of looking at everything: a “problem” or an “opportunity.” One of the things that I have learned, not just as a soldier, but a historian in the broadest sense of military history, is that each generation has faced its own opportunities, if you will, when it comes to advancing the science, the knowledge, of what it takes to keep people well and keep people safe and help those who have been harmed heal afterwards.

We can’t always fix what happened. We can’t always undo it. When folks come back without limbs, without cognitive function, it’s very difficult to restore wholeness to those folks, but what you can do is help them to heal and to maximize their potential moving forward.

Each generation has risen to that challenge. Our history as a nation, in terms of medical advances, has almost been written as a consequence of what we learned from each war. Our surgical advancements. Our means for transporting people to the hospital. How we deal with infections. I could go on.

The Hubbard Method, or whatever you want to call it, is an intervention aimed at veterans, who are clearly very deserving. Let’s face it – toxins in our life affect us all. Toxicity is a function of dose. It is certainly being borne right now by certain members of our society, soldiers and first responders among them – fireman and policemen. They’re not the only people being exposed to toxins.

When we look with 25 years of retrospect regarding this detoxification program, what we find is that this is yet another source of advancement. Not just evolution of warfare, but evolution of society and advancement of society and addressing the consequences that come from exposure to too many toxins.

We’ll look back at this era and we’ll see that this was yet another time where the medical sciences advance because they’ve been spurred to advance, they needed to advance based on yet another outcome of war.

The most important reason to offer an option is that it works. This isn’t about process, this isn’t about trying to make ourselves feel good by saying, “Look at we’re doing for the veterans, we’re spending money or we’re expending effort.” This is about outcome. If we’re offering something that doesn’t work we need to stop.

If there is something that does work we need to make the effort, and that’s what this is all about.

Back in the Civil War, astute clinicians discovered that when patients in their wards were exposed to a lot of fresh air—the windows were open, the curtains were pulled back and there was plenty of circulation—the patients did better. They found even more so that if the clinicians washed their hands before they went from patient to patient, their patients did better. They didn’t know why. They didn’t need to know why. What they needed to know was that it worked and they implement it and they saved people’s lives that way.

It was decades later that we came up with a germ theory and explained what the observation was all about.

I see ourselves largely in the same position here. The standard of science hasn’t evolved to the point where we know why people with certain toxic exposures are hurting. What we can know, and this study is all about, is community-advised input on methods and interventions that improve people’s lives, given the theory that these toxic exposures are negatively impacting their lives.

That’s really what it’s all about.