‘Top Doc’ remembers caring for wounded in Fallujah, Iraq

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‘We drove to the battle’

Making the annual “Top Doctors” list in Atlanta magazine is not bad for business, Richard Jadick admitted just after being named for the second straight year. But it’s not the first time his name has received wide publication.

He started working at Piedmont Newnan in 2013 and moved to Peachtree City at the same time. The move came at the end of a military career that saw him get closer to actual combat than nearly any physician would ever imagine.

Awarded a Bronze Star with “Combat V” device for his performance during the battle of Fallujah in 2004, Jadick is considered the most decorated military doctor to have served in Iraq. After volunteering to go to Iraq with 1st Battalion, 8th Marines as the unit’s battalion surgeon, that unit was ordered into Fallujah to establish order. Jadick is credited with establishing a forward aid station that saved the lives of at least 30 military personnel during the second battle of Fallujah.

Jadick told The Citizen he was older than average for a volunteer, going to Iraq at 38 as a Marine expeditionary unit surgeon with seven doctors and scores of corpsmen under him. His wife was nine months pregnant at the time of his deployment.

He described his surgical activities on the battlefield this way: “Instead of them coming to us, we drove to the battle.”

He and his associates performed all kinds of advanced trauma lifesaving procedures out of the backs of two armored personnel carriers. He was motivated to organize this type of operating room after seeing a solider die because there wasn’t enough time to transport him to the hospital.

“The battle was fluid,” said Jadick. “There were points where I was in front of the battle with my security, sometimes behind it, but always within 50 meters of the front lines.”

After that deployment he went immediately into his residency stateside. One day an editor at Newsweek magazine called him to corroborate some information for a story in progress, and the two of them wound up talking on the phone two hours a night for a week.

“I had never talked about Fallujah that entire year,” he said. “She got it out of me.”

The next thing he knew he was on the cover of Newsweek, with an accompanying cover story titled “Hero M.D.” A short time later someone contacted him about doing a book. In 2006, a few months after Jadick received his Bronze Star, “On Call in Hell: A Doctor’s Iraq War Story” came off the presses.

Through his naval career Jadick was able to see two childhood goals, medicine and the military, come to fruition.

“I always wanted to be a Marine, and I thought if I could parlay that after time into medicine I would,” he said. “It worked out.”

The New York native enlisted and went to college on an ROTC scholarship. He was a second-year general surgery resident at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland in 2001 and he was on the job when he and his colleagues saw the World Trade Center come crashing to the ground via television. Considering the location and mission of the facility, it was not an overreaction for them to wonder if they were targets as well.

“There was some panic,” he admitted. “People were wondering if planes were coming our way.”

It wasn’t long afterward that doctors like Jadick were being sought to return to the Marine Corps, “and I knew that was where I had to go.” His total deployment time — which included stops in the African nations of Liberia, Djibouti and Kenya — was 18 months.

After returning from Afghanistan in 2012, he completed his Navy career as the chief of urology at the Naval Hospital in Jacksonville, Fla. He retired in May of 2013 after 23 years of service.

A colleague and friend since 1987 was Steve Ivory, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and was Janick’s roommate in officer school. They worked together off and on for more than two decades, and Ivory was living in Peachtree City at the time of Jadick’s retirement. He encouraged his friend to interview at Piedmont Newnan and take a look at the area. He joined that hospital’s staff two months after military retirement.

The Atlanta magazine recognition is important because the doctors on the list are selected by their peers.

“It’s an honor to be chosen by your colleagues,” said Jadick, who is not actually an M.D. but is a D.O. (doctor of osteopathic medicine). “I don’t take it lightly. It’s humbling. I think medicine in Coweta County strives toward excellence, and our hospital is going to become more of a regional medical center in the future.”

He never received notification directly from the magazine, but each of the past two years he has learned about it from patients.

“I remember the first time someone showed it to me and I thought, ‘That’s nice,’” he said. “Then I saw how people were looking at the list and then making appointments. It’s a bigger deal than I thought. It’s certainly been good for business.”

His wife Melissa is a pediatrician. They live in Peachtree City with their three children: MacKenzie, Eva and Gregory.

“I’m not a Southerner but I chose to be a Georgian,” he said of his decision to relocate. “And I’m not leaving anytime soon. I love it here.”