COOPERSTOWN _ One of Bassett Healthcare's vascular surgeons recently returned from overseas, where he was helping treat soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Dr. Shelby Cooper joined 51 other members of the Society for Vascular Surgery in relieving the limited number of vascular surgeons who are filling positions in military hospitals in the United States and internationally.

Cooper, who has been working for Bassett Healthcare for about six years, volunteered to fill a two-week slot in the surgical rotation of Landstuhl Regional Medical Center at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. He said he mostly treated IED (improvised explosive device) injuries.

``I didn't do any major vascular surgeries while I was there,'' Cooper said. `` From a vascular surgery standpoint, things were actually pretty slow."

Cooper said slow is good because that means there is not much happening with the wars. He said activity has decreased in Iraq, and the winter weather has stalled things in Afghanistan.

Cooper said he served mostly as a consultant while in Germany. He said he did see a few critical patients, but most were sent for long-term care after about a five-day stay at the center.

The biggest difference between working at the center and working at Bassett was the age of the patients, Cooper said. He said vascular surgery is typically done on older people, but that was not the case in Germany.

According to Cooper, the center provided services to wounded American soldiers as well as NATO troops and soldiers from other countries. He said doctors at the center also cared for contractors working for the Department of Defense.

There were some suicide attempts, Cooper said, as suicides have been a problem in the military.

According to SVS assistant director of communications Emily Kalata, the society began its vascular surgery rotational program in September of 2007. She said the need for such surgeons depends on what is going on during the time of war.

"Our members understand how important expert surgeons are to the military in saving the lives and the limbs of young military heroes," said K. Wayne Johnston, SVS past president, in a media release. ``I am proud to represent a specialty that unselfishly contributes where they are needed.''

The SVS is a not-for-profit association that seeks to advance excellence and innovation in vascular health through education, advocacy, research and public awareness, the organization said. SVS is the national advocate for 2,700 vascular surgeons.

Cooper, who lives in Cooperstown, said he sees patients in Hamilton, Oneonta, Delhi and Cooperstown, but does most of his surgeries in Cooperstown. He began his career in medicine as a general surgeon, which he practiced for four years.

Cooper said he was able to perform some vascular surgeries while practicing general surgery and wanted to do more. This led to a fellowship in vascular surgery in 2001 and 2002, he said.

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