Dr. Vossoughi: I used to have to strap my chest down, because tactical teams didn’t have body armor for women. We had to fit into these flat, straight plates designed for a tall man’s back. It hurt when you had to carry all your equipment, and it was 70 pounds. I remember that being really uncomfortable.
We were in combat situations, but we didn’t necessarily receive the same combat pay. We received hardship pay and hazard pay, but the men received combat pay.
On being a woman in the military
Dr. Charles: I went to all-girls private Catholic schools all my life, except for when I went to medical school.
When I went to the Army, I had to make sure I was more comfortable around guys and that I was ready to speak whenever I needed to and stand my ground about things that I felt were important.
Dr. Vossoughi: It helped me learn that you can’t wait to be invited to the table.
Especially when you’re an officer in the military, if you’re a woman and you’re in command, when you walk into the room, you take your seat.
On the lessons they learned in service and how it informs their work today
Dr. Charles: I learned a lot about myself while in the Army. It not only made me stronger, but also instilled a belief in me that I can handle anything.
My time in the Army, on certain days, was really hard. It wasn’t easy putting on 80 pounds of gear and marching for five miles at night. You don’t realize the strength that you have until you have to face adversity.
Working in Hudson Valley, I have been able to take care of active duty patients here from West Point. As a veteran, I am able to understand their needs and the limitations they have compared with the rest of our patient population.
Dr. Vossoughi: For me, it was really a coming of age. I learned how to stand up for myself, how to hold my head high.
I learned how to lead a group of people, to get them to hear you, how to solve problems that you think are impossible.
In the military, we don’t wonder ‘if’ we can accomplish something — we ‘will’ and we ‘do’. Restructuring the way I saw the world, and more importantly, what I believed myself to be capable of, is the single most valuable thing I have learned in my life.
With those lessons, I am now able to stretch myself further in service of my patients and learn the latest technologies. I simply do what needs to be done because my mission now as a civilian is to take the best possible care of my patients. Nothing will stand between me and my mission.
On what they’d like people to know on Veterans Day
Dr. Charles: I want people to think about not only the veterans, but the families. When I was deployed, it wasn’t only me. It was my family. They were so worried and stressed.
Dr. Vossoughi: I’d like people to remember that there are so many people who have served, and everybody served in different ways: those who worked on the flight line and repaired the equipment we used, who drove the trucks through dangerous territory to get us the medical supplies that we needed.
Veterans are everywhere.