Got to keep on moving: Life is a whirlwind for married doctor duo

Spc. Todd Goodman
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center

story by Todd Goodman

He walks faster than most people jog. Her rapid-fire speech could make an auctioneer feel inadequate. Being around them at work is like being dropped into a tornado. Meet the doctors Dorlac.

Air Force Lt. Col. Warren Dorlac is the chief of Trauma Services at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Air Force Lt. Col. Gina Dorlac, a pulmonologist by trade, is the medical director of both the Intensive Care Unit and the Critical Care Air Transport Team for European Command. Not surprisingly, neither has much time for anything other than work.

“What’s the rest of your day look like?” Gina asked her husband during a hurried lunch at the dining facility. “I don’t know,” he said. “Think you’ll come home tonight?” she asked. “I don’t know, ” he answered. “Well, let me know.”

Doubtful, considering that Warren works 100 hours per week on average. Gina puts in a not-so-shabby 70 hours per week.

On July 19, Warren was late for patient rounds because he was on the phone with big-wigs from the Republic of Georgia, trying to orchestrate a way to get their docs trained up before they deploy to the desert. Then it was basically a blur as he went from room to room, inspecting wounds, recommending different pain remedies and removing sutures from a patient’s neck.

Turn around for an instant and Warren is gone.

“Have you seen Dr. Dorlac?”

“That way,” said a passerby. “He made it to the end of the hallway in about half a second.” An exaggeration, yes, but you had better be in shape and have on running shoes if planning to follow him as he roams the hospital hallways. On this particular day, he was “walking” to a meeting with six other docs (including his wife) to discuss life-saving measures and improvements to be made.

After the meeting he had the unfortunate task of going to the ICU to tell a 22-year-old Soldier that he was going to amputate his arm just below the elbow in about 30 minutes. A flipped Humvee had pinned his arm to the ground, doing irreparable damage.

Gina, meanwhile, had clinic that day, which meant that in between meetings, she saw patients and managed to grab a bite to eat with her husband of 17 years. But to hear her tell it, the marriage isn’t close to that long.

“If you took out all of the time that we have worked, we’ve really only been married four years, so we’re still newlyweds,” she said.

Tired newlyweds, for sure. Since arriving at LRMC, their workload has been maintained at an ultra-high level. The doctors just took their first family vacation in 16 months. They took their three small children to Italy for a week. Granted, during the first two days they still were consumed with work talk, but once Warren’s cell phone was confiscated things went smoothly.

“It (Italy) was good,” he said. “There is so much going at LRMC. So many unique things happen that you must have consistency, which is why we work the hours that we do. We could use twice as many staff as we

Those long hours infiltrate their downtime at home, too. “That’s the bad thing,” she said. “We take work home with us all of the time. Structuring the ICU, patients, people we work with − it totally
consumes us.

“Our kids now don’t want to be doctors or be in the military,” she said. “They are running out of career options.”

However challenging the workload and the lack of quality time with the kids (she said that Warren will fall asleep one minute after sitting down no matter how interesting the TV show or movie), all she has to do
is go into a badly injured warrior’s room to gain perspective.

That sight makes her and her husband catch their second wind.

“We struggle through, day to day, held together with scotch tape,”  she said. “But to do anything less than you are capable of here is cheating them.”