Serving your country is an honorable and dangerous choice, but Americans from all areas of life choose to put their lives on the line to protect the freedom of the United States. This Veteran’s Day, UnityPoint Clinic is proud to support Shawn Spooner, M.D., a family medicine and sports medicine doctor in Urbandale, who is a veteran of the United States Navy. For Dr. Spooner, serving in the military had been a long-time family tradition. However, he was most attracted to the military for the chance to do something different and to seek out new experiences.
“I found the opportunity to have the Navy pay my way through medical school and felt it was a great opportunity to explore the world, work with great people and serve my country as so much of my family had done before me,” Dr. Spooner said.
Despite his nerves when he left Iowa to begin training, Dr. Spooner was excited to take on the challenge of military service and quickly became more confident in his ability to work with others as a Medical Officer in the U.S. Navy.
“The Navy developed my skills to work with new teams in an effective, goal-driven way and to accomplish things efficiently and effectively,” Dr. Spooner said.
After graduating from medical school at the University of Iowa, Dr. Spooner completed a family medicine residency at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton in California. His first assignment led him to Chinhae, South Korea where he served as Senior Medical Officer and Officer in Charge of a naval health clinic in Chinhae.
As the only American physician working within the Chinhae clinic, Dr. Spooner faced significant challenges as the next available U.S. health care facility was over three hours away.
“Five Navy corpsmen and I were responsible for the health and medical needs of a small community of Navy personnel and their families, approximately 750 people,” Dr. Spooner said. “We also serviced visiting Navy ships and would accept medical emergencies and evacuations from U.S. ships and submarines at sea. It was a very challenging job,” Dr., Spooner said.
Despite the obstacles faced within the clinic, Dr. Spooner found that his time in South Korea was essential to his development as a physician and leader.
“I learned about managing limited resources and networking with multiple entities to include other military branches, the host-nation military, and host-nation medical services to ensure quality care for our service members and their families.” Dr. Spooner said.
During Dr. Spooner’s ninth and final year in the Navy, he volunteered to deploy to Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan where he served as Senior Medical Officer of the Concussion Restoration Care Center, a rehabilitation center for concussion or mild traumatic brain injury often inflicted as a result of Improvised Explosive Device blasts or combat-related concussions.
“It was a very rewarding opportunity to care for our injured members immediately after they had experienced trauma, and sometimes loss of their fellow Marines and soldiers. It was unquestionably the proudest moment of my military career,” Dr. Spooner said.
As a veteran, Dr. Spooner considers his military experience one of his most cherished accomplishments.
“For me, serving my country meant caring for someone’s son or daughter after they were injured far from home, delivering a first born child to a young mother whose husband is deployed and in harm’s way, or being there for honored veterans from a too often forgotten time past,” Dr. Spooner said. “I loved the opportunity and the privilege to serve!”
Visit UnityPoint's We Honor Veterans program to learn more about how UnityPoint supports veterans from all walks of life.