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A legacy in military medicine

Cooper trauma surgeon earns prestigious award for casualty care

Cooper trauma surgeon Dr. Kirby Gross (left to right), an award winner in 2017; trauma surgeon Dr. Kyle Remick, a friend and former colleague of the award’s namesake, Dr. John Pryor; and U.S. Navy Midshipman Jon Pryor Jr., who helped present the award in recognition of his late father, are shown with this year’s winner, trauma surgeon Dr. John Chovanes.

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A trauma surgeon at Cooper University Health Care in Camden has received the esteemed John P. Pryor M.D. Distinguished Service Award in the field of military casualty care.

This year’s award recognizes exceptional contributions to the field by Dr. John Chovanes, who accepted the honor at the 37th Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST) Annual Scientific Assembly in Orlando. The Pryor award has been given annually since 2012.

A resident of Gloucester Township, Chovanes is a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Along with performing surgery at Cooper, he is also the founding medical director of the hospital’s Military, Diplomatic, and Field Affairs section, providing crucial clinical trauma training for armed services and diplomatic special operations forces.

The late Pryor was a renowned trauma surgeon at University of Pennsylvania who lost his life in Iraq in 2008. Chovanes considered Pryor a mentor and one of the reasons he enlisted in the Army Medical Corps.

Pryor’s widow, Dr. Carmela Calvo, and her son, Navy midshipman John Pryor Jr., personally presented Chovanes with his award and the latter was part of the honor guard that accompanied Chovanes to the award ceremony.

Chovanes expressed his feelings on the honor.

“Dr. John Pryor was a mentor, a colleague and a friend,” Chovanes recalled. “He was inspirational to so many of us. I am deeply honored to receive this award – particularly surrounded by his family – and to carry on his legacy in the field of military medicine.”

Since joining the Army Reserve in 2001, Chovanes has completed six tours of duty, including serving as a trauma surgeon in Iraq in 2007 and Afghanistan in 2010 and 2012. He was also a surgeon during the key 2016 battle in the Iraqi city of Fallujah.

Chovanes’ military honors include the Army Commendation Medal for Meritorious Service and the U.S. Army Soldier’s Medal for Heroism.

Cooper is the only level-1 trauma center in South Jersey, with a pivotal role in training medical providers from military branches and government agencies.

Reflecting on Chovanes’ achievements, Dr. John M. Porter, head of the hospital’s trauma division and its director of trauma services, remarked, “His dedication and passion for caring for critically injured patients and sharing his knowledge with others has resulted in thousands upon thousands of saved lives.”


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