The AOA and the osteopathic profession are filled with men and women who have served in the military. AOA immediate past president Thomas Ely, DO, served two tours in Vietnam for the Army. Current AOA president Joseph A. Giaimo, DO, continued a long family tradition of military service by joining the Navy after his medical training.
As we honor those who served and currently serve for Veterans Day, The DO caught up with Dr. Giaimo to learn more about his time in the Navy and what drove him to serve his country and community.
When did you join the Navy, and what went into that decision?
My family has always been in the military, mostly in the Navy. My uncle and his three children were all Naval officers. And I always enjoyed, when we got together around family events, that we spoke about that. I’ve always felt a strong need to serve my country. When I was getting finished with my fellowship, I decided to go into the Navy. That was the right time because if you don’t do it then, chances are you won’t.
What was your experience like when you first served?
A month after I joined the Navy, Desert Storm started. I was finishing my residency training and my fellowship in pulmonary medicine. They activated my unit, and I was mobilized. I found that that was very challenging work but also enjoyable. I got a chance to meet people from all over the country and from different skill sets and work together as a team to help take care of our service people.
I had a chance to serve on some ships, primarily with the Marines on a couple of attack ships. I also had a chance to serve on an aircraft carrier. All of those were so unique. I enjoyed an opportunity to work outside of the hospital situation. Frequently, I went into three larger hospitals while in the Navy. I was in San Diego and worked with a pulmonary critical care team. I worked in Washington, D.C., then worked at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, and several times in Pensacola, Florida. Each was a different experience.
I enjoyed being out on the ships more than I did being at the hospitals because the hospitals were very close to what I did at home. Working on ships was a completely different lifestyle.
Weren’t you also in Europe for a period while in the Navy? What was that experience like?
I did a deployment in Italy. I was over there for one of my trainings and I worked at the Naval Hospital in Naples. And it was nice because we were the catchment area for the fleet and NATO forces in that area. I got to meet and care for people from many different nations and have a chance to interact with them. It was nice, and certainly it was great getting a chance to explore the countryside. I also got a chance to see my family there, which was awesome.
Do you keep in touch with some of the people you met along the way?
Certainly. One of our former board members, Dr. Mike Murphy, was the CEO at one of the naval hospitals where I worked. It was wonderful to reacquaint with him over the years when I was on different assignments, and I enjoyed working with him when he was on the Board of Trustees. Also, one of my classmates who I had lost contact with served in Jacksonville, Florida, while I was there, so we had a chance to reconnect. I keep in touch with him.
Over the past few years, I’ve enjoyed getting reacquainted with several of the men and women I served with during my time in the Navy.
What are some things you learned in the military that translate to your medical practice?
It’s all about teamwork. It’s about having a mission and accomplishing that together. Every person on the team serves an important role and has input. When I’m in my practice, I see the need for collaboration and teamwork like we had in the military.
Particularly when working with the Marines, I remember there were times we had to be creative and think outside the box to solve problems. Being able to help people whatever the situation is … that’s a lot like treating people in a health care setting.
How do you recognize Veterans Day in your home?
Service to our country and service to the community have always been important to my family. We have two boys, and we try to instill the value of service to them. It’s a privilege to have these opportunities to serve. We observe Veterans Day by taking a second to thank our service members, certainly those in my practice, my patients, my coworkers, and my family. My wife’s family also has a military history.
My father-in-law was in the Army, so it’s an important aspect of life for us. We try to take a minute, stop, and thank them—and all our service men and women—for their time and energy.