Memphis VA doctor recognized for military service

Published: May. 29, 2023 at 11:13 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The VA Medical Center in Memphis provides life-saving medical treatment for Mid-South veterans, and a new doctor at the VA is getting top marks for the care he provides for our war heroes, in and out of the hospital.  

The only thing more impressive than the path he took to get to the Bluff City is the care he shows for Mid-South military members.

Dr. Arjan Flora says he relies on the Hippocratic Oath and words from the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore to guide him.

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold service as joy,” Dr. Flora recited to Action News 5. “So I keep that in my head every day.”  

Service could be his middle name. Dr. Flora worked at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center and a private hospital in Pennsylvania during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Disheartened by the death around him, the talented young pulmonologist quit practicing medicine and became a firefighter. 

“It sounds odd,” he said, “but I’d rather go into a burning building than deal with how healthcare is in the United States. But again, there’s a cause, and so if the cause is the mission for veterans, that’s where the benefit comes in - where it doesn’t matter how it is being a physician nowadays. That’s the calling.” 

The call to help veterans brought him back to medicine and to Memphis a year ago, and he brought change with him. 

“I can’t say enough good about him, he’s a wonderful guy!” U.S. Army veteran Michael Gafford told Action News 5.

For the first time in years, Gafford, who suffers from emphysema, can breathe easier again.

In February, Dr. Flora used new technology to perform the Memphis VA’s very first bronchoscopic lung volume reduction on Gafford, rarely leaving his side in recovery.

”I don’t know what he did about changing clothes, but I know he stayed in this hospital for several days. If he’d left, I’d be dead,” said Gafford, “He’s number one in my book.”

In May, the Tennessee National Guard gave Dr. Flora the Commendation Ribbon for helping train 1,000 service members on combat casualty care.

It was a four-day event at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base in Knoxville. Dr. Flora volunteered his time and expertise and paid his own way to get there.

“You see these young kids and you just imagine anything that would happen to them,” said Dr. Flora, “and you at least provide them with the opportunity to know that they can save each other’s lives. They were shocked that a doctor, free of charge, would show up all the way from Memphis to spend the time with them and help them out. I didn’t have to be there. I chose to be there, and they were very appreciative of that.”

The Ohio National Guard also recognized Dr. Flora for his volunteer work during COVID, when he into nursing homes to save patients who had no other hope.

“We were deployed in these abandoned nursing homes,” he said, “this was very early in the pandemic where nobody knew what COVID was. The staff would just leave all the residents there, and so we were finding abandoned patients, people with plugged-up tracheostomies, people not getting their medications.”

Flora, at age 37, is a true lifesaver, now making a tremendous difference at the Memphis VA, and staff and patients are noticing.

“I think they were just very excited and happy to have someone who wants to do something and wants to advance us into the 21st century,” said Dr. Flora, “and bring the latest and greatest state-of-the-art care for our veterans. I can actually do something here. I can do something here.”

Dr. Flora is also an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and he’s currently doing research work at the VA trying to develop a nasal swab that can detect lung cancer so patients can avoid intrusive bronchoscopy procedures. 

He also told Action News 5 he’s already reached out to the Fayette County Fire Department to see if they need any volunteers. Service-minded, indeed.

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