“Former Navy doctor spearheading remote medicine using Google+”
by Ken Smith
Let me introduce you to Dr. Gary Levin. Dr. Levin was in the US Navy from 1969 to 1971 serving as a general medical officer. He was in an amphibious group, and served on the USS Jeneau, LPD 10.
After his tour in the Navy he did general practice in San Diego for a while and then he went to NY and spent three years at the Albany medical center learning how to be an eye surgeon. He then headed back to Riverside CA and opened a surgical ophthalmology practice. He also was a clinical professor of ophthalmology at Loma Linda University for a number of years. That is what he did everyday for close to 35 years. He saw it all when it came to advances in eye research and he was a visionary (no pun intended) about the use of remote medicine.
You may be as amazed as I was when I heard through the grapevine that he was giving free medical care to veterans worldwide. You see, Dr. Levin now spends his days trolling for those in need of an eye doctor’s knowledge using his Google+ account.
How does he do that you might ask?
I went in search myself to find out how this former Navy doctor, world renowned eye surgeon and all around good guy is helping veterans around the world in need.
It brought me to a Google+ hangout, actually it’s a virtual video conference center, and in that Google+ hangout, I watched Dr. Levin working with a former Pakistani military member, who was in need of some special kind of corrective lens for an injury sustained in defense of Pakistan. The lens couldn’t or can’t be found in Pakistan and as I listened I learned alot as this American Navy veteran went about his magic
Muhammad of Lahore, the Pakistani vet was asking for help, sitting in this Google+ hangout, at 2am his time, waiting his turn to have his FREE appointment with this retired American eye surgeon.
Using the video camera of the Google+ hangout, and doing all the things you would expect an eye doctor would do, he finished the meeting with a promise to Muhammad that he would make it a point that the special lens he was sure would fix the problem got shipped to Pakistan and Dr. Levin did all this like he was just around the corner from this veteran in Pakistan instead of on the other side of the world.
I was amazed.
After speaking to Dr. Levin, I became aware of how many of these acts of humanity he is actually performing.
This was my sixth patient today, and I have another couple to go he said.
Are you practicing medicine over the Internet I asked?
Not really, I am not physically there, there are no drugs I prescribe and mostly I am making informed suggestions. But in the case of Muhammad, with what he told me about his condition and his injury, I knew exactly the lens type he needed and made a call to a medical supplier friend of mine that made tons of money off me when I was in practice.
Did you tell him you were sending it to Pakistan?
Nope, and he didn’t ask.
So, why? I asked.
Why are you doing this?
Ken, your a vet, and I’m a vet, and to me, well, a vet is a vet is a vet. I don’t care that this vet was from Pakistan, I wouldn’t care if he was Baluchistan, or any of those stans, and if anybody has an issue with me helping another vision disabled veteran, well, that’s their problem, not mine.
You know, he’s right I thought. We all should have that attitude. If we did, then maybe half the crap that American’s are lambasted about in foreign capitals worldwide would diminish.
Quietly, without any fanfare, no press releases, this retired Navy doctor is gaining friends for America, one vision disabled veteran at a time.
Dr. Levin said, better than half of my new Google+ friends (I don’t call them patients he said), are veterans here in the US. I have spoken to veterans in 22 countries and mostly its the same kind of service. They need some corrective lens or some device that will assist them in their condition. Since I know all about that, well, I feel this is how I can still serve my country.
Congrats to you Dr. Levin. You are making all the rest of us proud to be American.
For more than twenty-five years Ken Smith has been a leading advocate for veterans. A combat Vietnam veteran, Ken served during 1971-72 as a paramedic and an infantry squad leader with Delta Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry, in the 196th Light Infantry Brigade, Americal Division. After his discharge, Ken continued his work as a paramedic in New England. On the streets of Boston he encountered growing numbers of homeless Vietnam veterans, and he became determined to both assist them and draw attention to their plight.
In 1989, Ken founded the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans, located in a former VA hospital at 17 Court Street in downtown Boston. One of the first facilities designed for homeless veterans and now a national model, the shelter has served over 35,000 of America’s veterans who, for whatever reason, find themselves living on the streets.
In 1992 Ken was awarded Point of Light #142 by President George H. W. Bush, and later that same year received the AMVETS Silver Helmet Award, considered the “Oscar” for American veterans. As one of America’s foremost veterans service organizations, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring numerous programs that serve our country and its citizens. Ken was awarded this honor along with Peter Coors, with whom he still maintains a personal friendship.
Over the years Ken has appeared on many national media programs including Good Morning America, Prime Time Live, ABC News, CBS News, Larry King Live, CNN, 60 Minutes, and The Geraldo Show. He has been quoted in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, and numerous international newspapers, magazines, and websites. In 1992, Ken had the distinction of addressing both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as a keynote speaker on the subject of veterans.
Ken recently left his last assignment with the Military Order of the Purple Heart Service Foundation, where he was the chief technology architect of the Veteran’s Vocational Technical Institute, Purple Heart Car Donation program, Purple Heart Call Center, Purple Heart Radio, Purple Heart Tech Support, Purple Heart Services, and over thirty new Purple Heart websites. Ken Smith provided the vision and has overseen the implementation of innovative, virtual, work-at-home training programs for veterans with combat disabilities. Ken has designed, upgraded, and supervised the integration and installation of Purple Heart Service Foundations computer and telephony systems, upgrading features from legacy POTS phones to SIP-trunked communications systems including establishing new VPN networks for teams of remote virtual employees.
An adventure sports enthusiast, Ken enjoys extreme skiing, competitive sailing, flying, and travel. He has traveled extensively worldwide, delivering his positive message to the veterans of other countries that a paraplegic veteran of the United States suffers the same as a paraplegic veteran of India; that an amputee veteran of Nepal suffers as much as an amputee veteran of France. Ken’s mentor was Harold Russell, the two-time Academy Award winner who starred in the 1946 film Best Years of Our Lives. A World War II veteran, on D-Day, June 6th, 1944, Harold lost both of his hands. This ghastly misfortune did not stop him, and he went on to become the chairman of the President’s Committee for People with Disabilities. For over fifty years he served US presidents from Truman to Clinton. Ken was humbled and grateful when Harold agreed to serve as the best man at Ken’s wedding.
Ken has been instrumental in the planning stages for the Veterans Workshop, a new nationwide veterans’ advocacy group building a new “Veterans Hotline, and the development of special programs for those who have lost their sight or their hearing, or who have suffered spinal cord injury, as a result of their military experience. The Veterans Workshop provides a forum where new technology and advancements in the fields of prosthetic and orthotic solutions, many designed by Ken, are shared along with virtual training and employment programs.
A 1970 graduate of De La Salle Academy in Newport, Rhode Island, for the past twenty-five years Ken has continued his education with extensive college courses in computer technology and related social service fields. He resides in his native state of Rhode Island with his wife and children.