Based on the Soviet Union’s bloody experience in Afghanistan, it did not take Scoville long to realize that U.S. troops could expect significant losses of limbs from rocket-propelled grenades, mines and other explosives. Moreover, a quarter-century after the United States left Vietnam, the nation’s peacetime military medical care was set up to treat older amputees who had lost limbs to disease, not trauma.
“We were not ready,” Scoville recalled concluding.
It would fall on Scoville and his colleagues to change that.
More than a decade later, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, Scoville serves as chief of the Amputee Patient Care Service at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.
As of this month, more than 1,500 U.S. service members suffering major losses of limbs have come through the amputee clinic, both at the Bethesda location and its former home at the old Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington. That facility closed last summer and was consolidated with the former Bethesda naval hospital to form a joint services medical center.
Scoville, 60, has been nominated for a prestigious federal worker award for his development of a sports-based rehabilitation program that has changed the blueprint for amputee medical care and is credited with helping hundreds of combat amputees lead active lives. In some cases, amputees have even returned to duty. In the process, Scoville has collaborated with the developers of prosthetics to create a new generation of advanced artificial limbs.
“Chuck’s had a very significant impact on military medicine, and civilian as well,” said Paul Pasquina, chief of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Walter Reed.
Scoville, a nominee for the National Security and International Affairs Medal, is one of 33 finalists in nine categories for the 2012 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, which are awarded to outstanding civil servants by the nonprofit group Partnership for Public Service. The medals will be awarded in September.
A native of Ohio and physical education major at Ohio University, Scoville began his Army career as a Pershing missile crewman at Fort Sill, Okla., but took advantage of an Army program to earn a master’s degree and a doctorate in sports medicine, his true passion.
He served as an Army physical therapist in Berlin, at the Pentagon and in Hawaii. Assigned to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in the 1990s, Scoville proposed and established a first-of-its-kind sports-based physical therapy program.
After his assignment in the Army surgeon general’s office, Scoville retired from the service in 2003, intending to go into sports medicine. But the Army asked him to take a civilian job heading the amputee care program at Walter Reed, just as the number of casualties rose with the U.S. invasion of Iraq.