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Richard Carmona: 1949—: U.S. Surgeon General

Early Career Full Of Intensity

Carmona's Army career included combat in Vietnam in the Army Special Forces as a Green Beret and medic, for which he earned two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star, among other decorations and awards for service. When his Army service was complete, Carmona returned to civilian life, marrying his childhood sweetheart and pursuing his college education at the University of California-San Francisco while working different jobs. He graduated college with honors in 1976, and was accepted into the University of California-San Francisco Medical School. He not only graduated from medical school at the top of his class, earning the prestigious Gold Headed Cane award, but was also the first student in the school's history to complete the four-year program in three years. He pursued training as a surgeon, then specialty training in trauma surgery.

Carmona headed to Tucson, Arizona, in 1985 to head the first trauma-care program in the region. A year later, he joined the Pima County sheriff's office as a doctor and SWAT team member. He also served as a clinical professor of surgery, public health, and family and community medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences Center. In 1992, after a medevac helicopter crashed into the side of a mountain, Car-mona rescued the sole survivor by dangling from another chopper on a rope, lashing the wounded paramedic to himself, and carrying him three miles to safety. The incident reportedly inspired a movie.

At a Glance . . .

Born Richard Henry Carmona on November 22, 1949, in New York City, NY. Education: University of California-San Francisco, BA, 1976, MD 1978; University of Arizona, MA, public health, 1998. Military Service : US Army Special Forces, c. 1966-70.

Career: Trauma Care System, Tucson, AZ, director, 1985-2002; Pima County sheriff's department, doctor and SWAT team leader, 1986-2002; University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, clinical professor of surgery, public health, and family and community medicine; Pima County Public Healthcare System, director 1997-99; US Surgeon General, 2002–.

Memberships: State of Arizona Southern Regional Emergency Medical System, chairman, 1990-2002.

Awards: Awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for combat during the Vietnam War; Gold Head Crane Award, University of California-San Francisco; "Top Cop" award from the National Association of Police Organizations, 2000.

In September of 1999, on his way to a University of Arizona football game, Carmona pulled off the road to assist a traffic accident—a pickup truck had rear-ended a car. When Carmona approached the truck, onlookers told him the driver was armed. Though Carmona was off duty, he still was carrying a gun and, after calling for backup, asked the driver to put down his weapon. The driver appeared to follow Carmona's instructions, but suddenly fired on the doctor, grazing Carmona's head. Carmona fired seven shots, three of which hit the man and killed him. It was later discovered that the man was a mentally ill ex-convict who had murdered his father earlier that day.

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