Health specialists give back in times of war

Professor Chris Griffiths is a forensic dentist, travelling to disaster zones around the world to help identify the deceased.

Professor Chris Griffiths is passionate about Australian health personnel giving back to their country in times of war and disaster.

The retired Air Commodore served with the Royal Australian Air Force before joining Westmead Hospital in 1981, where he is a staff specialist and Director of the NSW Forensic Dental Unit.

Prof Griffiths has also continued to serve as a reservist, which he spoke about at the Westmead Hospital Anzac Day memorial service.

From 2004-2008 he was the RAAF Assistant Surgeon General and Director General of Health Reserves, where one of his roles was in recruiting specialist health personnel to serve the Australian Defence Force (ADF) in level three facilities for short stints of up to two months during times of conflict such as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“The ADF doesn’t have any full-time health specialists. All our specialists are reservists,” Prof Griffiths explained.

“They have their bags packed by the door, ready to go. In the case of an emergency such as the 2002 Bali bombings, they drop everything and go within hours. They walk away from everything to serve and give back.

“We now try to get injured soldiers to level three facilities where they can be stabilised within the ‘golden hour’, which dramatically improves their chance of survival. That’s one of the big differences between now and World War I. I’ve seen people survive injuries they never would have survived back then.

“That’s why health reservists are so important for the recovery of injured military personnel who are putting their lives on the line.”