Dr. William LeCates, a kidney specialist and medical director of Bassett Healthcare Center, credits seven years as a New York Army National Guard military doctor as having made him a better overall physician.
The things he’s learned about military leadership and the way the military quickly incorporates medical lessons learned into clinical practice, and the training he’s had in dealing with medical trauma, have all helped make him a better civilian doctor, LeCates explained.
“It is difficult for me to be absent from my civilian work, but I come home again with a better appreciation for own civilian role,” LeCates said.
LeCates, who has worked for Bassett Healthcare Network since 2003, practices internal medicine as well as serving as medical director at the hospital.
Since 2009 he’s also been a member of the New York Army National Guard, putting the knowledge and skills he gained at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore to work for American and allied military personnel.
He always had an interest in serving in the military, LeCates said, but going to medical school, establishing himself in a practice, and having three kids along the way meant putting off that goal.
Finally, with his family settled in Cooperstown, his practice established, and the realization that at age 39 he needed to join the military now or never, he decided to seek a commission in the Army Medical Corps, LeCates said.
“The Guard was a perfect fit for me,” he said. “I knew we could have our home, we could stay in our home, Debbie (his wife) and my kids could be secure and fixed in our schools and the community and I could carry out my military duties.”
As an Army Guard doctor, LeCates serves as a member of the New York Army National Guard’s Medical Command, or MEDCOM. Mostly they conduct medical readiness weekends at Camp Smith Training Site just north of Peekskill in the Hudson Valley, or at Fort Drum in Northern New York, along with treating Soldiers during training periods.
But his service has also meant deploying overseas, and since joining the Army National Guard, LeCates has deployed several times, including two rotations in Afghanistan.
LeCates’ most recent deployment was a six-month non-combat mission to the West African country of Liberia, with a 14-member detachment from the Michigan Army National Guard.
“We lived and traveled with the Liberians. Wherever they traveled, we traveled,” he said. “They were always gracious hosts, but some of the areas were very rural. It was really hands on.”
As a doctor, the deployment offered a remarkable opportunity to see medicine at both the macro and micro level, as the country dealt with the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak that hit the country in 2014, LeCates said.
“The country is small enough, and the cities are close enough, that in a single day I could be in a Liberian clinic looking at young kids that are getting malaria, and in the evening I could be working at the Ministry of Health and helping to understand their Ebola response efforts,” LeCates said.
“In Liberia the medical experience, the diseases and diagnoses I saw, are ones I will never see in the United States,’ he added.
Read more from the New York National Guard. Photo credit: William LeCates