FORT POLK, La. –
U.S. Army Reserve Maj. Peter Edelstein, medical doctor and general surgeon, took the oath of commissioned officers at Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital on Fort Polk, Louisiana, on Aug. 27.
Edelstein, a 60-year-old surgeon, said serving in the military has been his lifelong dream. He said after growing up in the San Francisco Bay area following the Vietnam War, his military aspirations were temporarily clouded, and he pursued academics instead.
Edelstein earned two bachelor’s degrees from Stanford University and attended medical school in Chicago. After medical school, he devoted five more years to become a general surgeon, followed by two years of specialized training and fellowship focused on colon and rectal.
“I practiced medicine back at Stanford, and after doing that for a while I left my medical practice and ran companies in Silicon Valley for a decade,” he said. “As I looked back over my career, my single biggest regret was having done nothing with the military.”
Edelstein thought he might be too old, but after discussing it with his wife, he began the journey to his ultimate commission in the Army Reserve.
“I had to go back and get re-board certified. I went abroad to do some mission work in South America and Haiti, so I could do something of value while learning again,” he said. “I eventually found an opportunity to work as a general surgeon as a Department of the Army civilian for BJACH. At the time, I had already begun the process to go into the Navy and wanted to get a feel for working with and on a military installation.”
Capt. Lizamara Bedolla, chief of hospital education and staff development, worked with Edelstein when he was employed at the hospital.
“I worked closely with him as a nurse in the mixed medical surgical department, and he was my very first preceptor when I began my nurse practitioner clinical training,” she said. “As an educator, Dr. Edelstein is amazing. He takes the time to educate the patient, the nurses and always takes the time to make sure everyone understands. As a nurse, we spend all day with the patients. Dr. Edelstein was always interested in our opinion, wanted our insights on the patients, and would discuss his plan of action for them with us.”
Bedolla said she couldn’t believe it when he told her he was trying to join the military.
“As I got to know him, I learned how much it meant to him, that his father was a pediatrician in the Army when he was first born and that he always had the desire to serve his country,” she said. “He is one of those rare people that wants to join for the pure love of the military and his country. That speaks volumes about the kind of person he is.”
Bedolla said she was not surprised that he chose to come back to BJACH to take the oath.
Lt. Col. Brian Adams, pediatrician at BJACH, administered the oath for Edelstein.
“Dr. Edelstein came on board when I was the deputy commander of clinical services for the hospital,” he said. “He was such a valued team member. He was always willing to help even if it was outside of surgery. It didn’t matter, if he was on call and they needed help in the emergency room or anywhere, he was there.”
Adams said during Edelstein’s tenure at BJACH, he was always looking at ways to improve the access and quality of care for our patients.
“It is amazing when you look at his 11-page curriculum vitae and all of his accomplishments. We were fortunate to have had him working here,” he said. “When he asked me to administer the oath today, I couldn’t be more proud; it’s such an honor.”
Staff Sgt. Cameron Reeves, hospital education and staff development noncommissioned officer in charge, rendered the first salute to Edelstein following his oath.
According to firstsalute.com, newly commissioned officers give a silver dollar to the person from whom they receive the very first salute of their career. According to the site, the act of giving a silver dollar means one of two things. Either a representation of the respect they found in the newly earned rank. Or that the new officer must buy his first salute because he has not earned it yet.
“This was the first time a newly commissioned officer has asked me to give them their first salute,” he said. “When he was a surgeon at BJACH we met at the newcomers briefing. We started talking about what I do and the classes I teach and he expressed an interest in attending the Tactical Combat Casualty Care training.”
Reeves said Edelstein is the only civilian and the only surgeon who has ever attended his class.
“He wanted to learn what medics do to stabilize casualties in order to get them to his level of care,” he said. “In the future as a reserve officer he may be deployed and if he is he will be saving lives.”
Edelstein said he found his calling for the Army after his experience at Fort Polk.
“Taking the oath today was the fulfillment of a regret I’ve had for a long time,” he said. “Working here at BJACH was a privilege for me. Serving with these Soldiers influenced my decision to choose the Army over the other branches of service. I am happy to serve and willing to go wherever the Army needs me.”