April 2019


Hear the incredible story of our colleague Hal Kushner

by Thomas Samuelson, MD ASCRS President

From left: Steve Speares, ASCRS executive director,
Dr. Kushner, and Dr. Samuelson
Source: ASCRS


During the Opening General Session of the 2019 ASCRS ASOA Annual Meeting in San Diego, I will have one of the greatest honors of my presidency: the opportunity to introduce Hal Kushner, MD, as he receives the ASCRS Distinguished Member Award.
Take a moment to familiarize yourself with his incredible story:

Imagine life as a handsome young doctor with dark hair and sparkling blue eyes, one beautiful little girl with another child on the way, and a lucrative, fulfilling career ahead. Fast forward several months ... Instead, just as then-Captain Hal Kushner regains consciousness after crashing into a mountain in South Vietnam, he finds himself hanging upside down in his burning, inverted Huey. Hit by exploding ammunition when trying to free the pilot, he will lose his entire crew within days and be left on his own in hostile territory. Shot, broken, badly burned, and unable to see—his glasses lost on impact—he is captured by the Viet Cong and will spend over five years in horrific conditions as a POW. Incredibly, Dr. Kushner transcended this tragedy in a remarkable triumph of the human spirit through focusing on the future, not the past, and living each day in gratitude and joy.

—Excerpt from “An Interview with Colonel Floyd Harold ‘Hal’ Kushner, M.D., F.A.C.S,
U.S. ARMY Flight Surgeon and Vietnam Prisoner of War” by Paul J. Fardink

As a history enthusiast I fervently watched the epic 10-part documentary The Vietnam War by Ken Burns and Lynn Novik. Too young to be directly involved in the war, my siblings and I were spared the incredible hardship encountered by many families. Yet I think it is a responsibility of all citizens to attempt to grasp the magnitude of commitment needed to serve in armed forces during wartime.
While watching this extremely well-produced series, I became captivated by the story of Flight Surgeon Hal Kushner, the only U.S. physician to be taken prisoner during the Vietnam War. His story of courage, endurance, optimism, and resiliency is truly remarkable.
I didn’t know Dr. Kushner’s story before watching the film, but was extremely impressed by his clear, engaging, and passionate firsthand account of his experience in the war. Dr. Kushner appears 14 times in the series. At the end of the documentary, the film’s producers briefly describe the fate of the featured individuals. When Dr. Kushner’s summary appeared on the screen, I was stunned: After his release as a POW, Dr. Kushner became an ophthalmologist, practicing in Daytona Beach, Florida. How had I not known of his story before now?
I discussed this with my fellow members of the ASCRS Executive Committee and suggested that as a society we honor Dr. Kushner during the Opening General Session of our Annual Meeting. Then I learned that Dr. Kushner has been a member of ASCRS for 35 years, which of course connects his story even more to all of us ASCRS members.
Please join me during the Opening General Session of the Annual Meeting to hear his unique and compelling story.

Contact information
: twsamuelson@mneye.com

Hear the incredible story of our colleague Hal Kushner Hear the incredible story of our colleague Hal Kushner
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