Using lasers to treat burns and scars might sound counterintuitive, but one Air Force physician is drastically improving the quality of life for his patients with a newly developed technology.
59th Medical Specialty Squadron Dermatologist Lt. Col. (Dr.) Chad Hivnor was recently selected to receive the Air Force Association’s Paul W. Myers Award for his work using lasers to improve skin texture and flexibility for wounded warriors.
In a joint research project with Massachusetts General Hospital and Shriner’s Hospital of Boston, Hivnor was awarded a $1.1 million grant to study improvement in range of motion using lasers on burn and amputee scars.
“By using a carbon dioxide laser, a number of wounded warriors were able to be treated for their burns and scars, to include leg amputations,” said Hivnor. “We were then able to increase the sweat and decrease hair which causes frictional folliculitis, a skin condition caused by inflammation of hair follicles due to the prosthetics.”
“We’re really helping the wounded warriors to assimilate back into society,” he added.
For four years, Hivnor was either the program director or assistant program director for the largest Defense Department dermatology residency, with 21 residents annually — a program that maintains a 100 percent medical board passing rate.
He is also the only dermatologist in the Air Force taking patients to the operating room to treat severe burns that involves anywhere from 10 to 80 percent of their body surface area.
Hivnor is the principle investigator for six different Institutional Review Board approved research protocols with over 200 combined patients. These studies allow new technologies to be employed and new practices to be conducted – the laser treatments are one example of a tangible benefit for patients.
Gabriel Alvarado, a fireman hurt in a refinery explosion, said he is thankful for what Dr. Hivnor has done.
“I can already tell the difference in the way I look and feel,” said Alvarado. “And that makes my outlook on life a lot better.”
The Paul W. Myers award is presented to the Air Force medical corps officer who has made the most significant contribution to the continued good health of the men and women of the Air Force.
Formally known as the Clinical Surgeons Award, it became the Paul W. Myers Award in honor of retired Lt. Gen. Paul W. Myers for his 45 years of active membership with the society of Air Force Clinical Surgeons.
Hivnor will receive this award at the Air Force Association’s annual Air and Space Conference in Washington, D.C., Sept. 16.