Dr. Mike Rudisile takes a break in the National Military Hospital in Kabul with the bearded caretaker of the facility’s flower room. Photo courtesy of Dr. Mike Rudisile

Local doctor returns from Afghanistan

CENTRAL POINT — When family doctor Mike Rudisile has a long day at work in his civilian practice, all he needs to put a smile on his face is to reflect on where he was just three months ago.

That would be in the 400-bed National Military Hospital in Kabul, the heart of war-torn Afghanistan.

"Where we spent most of our time initially was the intensive care unit — it was a train wreck," said the Navy lieutenant commander, who is now with the inactive Navy reserves.

"They didn't have any supplies or very much equipment," he added of the hospital that catered to the Afghan military and police. "And they were having a lot of trauma coming in."

Based at Camp Eggers in Kabul, he was attached to the Afghanistan Command Surgeons Office, an arm of the allied Combined Security Transition Command.

"Our job was to get the hospital functioning," explained Rudisile, 38, now happily practicing with Providence Medical Group in Central Point. He returned from Afghanistan in July after serving six months in-country.

"The way they do things over there is very Russian," said the 1987 graduate of North Medford High School who later earned an accounting degree from Oregon State University and a medical degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"For instance, the general of the hospital was assigning prescriptions," he added. "There would be a line of a 100 people out there waiting. It was inefficient to the max.

"The supply system was a mess," he continued. "We were trying to change that but we had varying degrees of success. It's pretty hard to change the way they do things."

Rudisile was no stranger to military deployment. He is a veteran of Iraq, having served as a battalion surgeon with the 5th Marine Division.

"I enjoyed being a military guy and taking care of the Marines," he said.

While Afghanistan wasn't as volatile as Iraq, it was plenty dangerous, he said.

Mortar rounds periodically hit an otherwise secure area. Then there were the roadside bombs, known in current military parlance as IEDs — improvised explosive devices.

Two of his friends, an American colonel and a sergeant, were both shot and killed while traveling to a prison in Kabul.

"That was very sad — they were two guys I worked with," he said, noting he periodically visited the same prison. "We would drive around town in white Toyota Land Cruisers with no armor. We were very susceptible."

While at the hospital he was armed with a handgun but carried an M-16 rifle when he visited rural hospitals.

It was during his tour that his wife, Mary Beth, gave birth to their son, Braedon Michael, born on April 29. He joined siblings Evan, 5, and Edith, 21/2.

"I was able to call but the line cut off just when they were delivering him," he said. "By the time I got back on he was born."

While he enjoyed some aspects of Afghan life, including dickering with rug salesmen, Rudisile focused on his mission.

The hospital had about 100 doctors but only 100 nurses, he said, noting there was a severe nurse shortage.

"It was the flagship hospital — the Russians had built it for their casualties," he said. "It looked like a dorm. I recommended knocking it down when I got there."

To bring about change, Rudisile and other visiting doctors offered several medical classes to the Afghan medical professionals.

"Some of them are very good doctors but didn't have the process of evaluating a patient down very well," he said. "With their training, they graduate from medical school and suddenly they are a neurosurgen or whatever.

"So a lot of their practice is based on what a guy they were working with had done, and it may or may not have been right," he added. "It was very interesting, very difficult."

His unit bought several high-tech instruments, including an MRI, but there was no one to operate them, he said.

"Part of the problem was that when we sent a guy over to America, France or Germany to get training, he wouldn't come back," he said. "They'd get a visa and stay."

As a result, he recalls wondering if they were making a difference.

"You'd teach them how to do something, then they wouldn't do it," he said.

But one of the classes he taught was pediatric advanced life support, which included how to resuscitate newborn babies.

"We taught them how, if the baby is born and not breathing, the process to go through to resuscitate them," he said.

One day when he was walking down the hallway an Afghan physician came running up to tell him how they had successfully resuscitated a non-breathing newborn, thanks to his class.

"That made me feel like I was making a difference," he said.

He also offered a class to train Afghan medical professionals how to diagnose and treat cervical cancer. He also taught them how to a colposcopy, a gynecology follow-up for abnormal Pap smears.

But the extremely conservative Taliban religious rulers have left their mark on Afghanistan, he said.

"Under the Taliban, women stayed in the house and wore their burqas," he said of the traditional long veil that covers a woman from head to toe, with a mesh opening over the eyes so the wearer can see.

Afghan women also had major difficulties getting medical help, resulting in the highest infant mortality rate in the world, he said.

"The influence from the Taliban has loosened up a lot," he said. "There were a lot of women at the hospital who weren't wearing burqas."

But he assumed they donned the veils when they left the facility because of the danger of appearing too Western.

Back in the Rogue Valley, he said his military experience has impacted the way he looks at life.

"After you spend time in the threat zone, you take things a little less for granted," he said. "You tend to spend more time with your family. You don't get as excited about the little things.

"You see a country like Afghanistan and you see people who have very few materials things but are just happy to be alive," he added.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

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