Wesley Emergency specialist awarded Australian Operational Service Medal

24 April 2024

Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd) with Wesley emergency physician, Assistant Professor Luke Jeremijenko, who is wearing military medals.

In the lead up to ANZAC Day 2024, Wesley emergency physician, Assistant Professor Luke Jeremijenko, became one of only two Australian doctors to be awarded the Australian Operational Service Medal (Civilian).

The special honour recognises his outstanding service to provide medical aid during the evacuation of Australian officials and others from Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2021.

A/Prof Jeremijenko, a Specialist Emergency Physician at The Wesley Hospital Emergency Centre, was awarded by the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Retd), at a ceremony in April.

The Australian Operational Service Medal was established for the purpose of according recognition to those who render service in certain Australian Defence Force operations.

With only 24 hours’ notice, in August 2021, A/Prof Jeremijenko was deployed to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates on a mission to provide medical treatment to those evacuating from Kabul.

For 14 days, he worked alongside a small group of Australian health professionals in a field hospital established in an airport hangar where they would treat thousands of evacuees, including many refugees.

In 50-degree temperatures, and with limited clinical supplies, A/Prof Jeremijenko and his colleagues treated the entire spectrum of healthcare needs, from wounds and burns to management of chronic conditions.

“It was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life and I certainly couldn’t have done it without the camaraderie of the healthcare team on the ground, as well as my colleagues at The Wesley who were a great source of knowledge and support when we needed to make phone calls home for clinical advice,” A/Prof Jeremijenko said.

“We treated a whole range of conditions, from managing an outbreak of COVID-19 in the camp, to caring for women in labour and coordinating specialist obstetric care for them locally in Dubai.

“30 per cent of the refugees we treated were less than 10 years old, sadly with significant wounds and severe burns which required specialist treatment.

“It was surreal and overwhelming, and the environment felt like something you might see in a movie, but we just hit the ground running to provide the best care and treatments we could, with the clinical supplies available to us,” he said.

Luke, who is also the son of a refugee, said while he feels proud to have been recognised with the Medal, he feels prouder of the care he and his colleagues were able to provide.

“I feel proud and humbled by this award and it’s caused me to reflect on the deployment and the genuine care we were able to provide for about 1,000 patients we met on their journey to get to a safer place,” A/Prof Jeremijenko said.

“The experience in Dubai is one that will stay with me for life. In particular, the stories I heard, I will never forget. I’m grateful for the experience which was incredibly challenging but immensely rewarding.” he said.

A/Prof Jeremijenko served for 23 years in the Special Air Service Regiment in the Australian Army and having also met his now wife on ANZAC Day, the annual day of commemoration is a special one for Luke and his family.

He plans to spend the day quietly honouring the sacrifices of the doctors and nurses who landed on ANZAC Cove at dawn on 25 April 1915 and quickly established the 1st Casualty Clearing Post.

“Of course, ANZAC day can also be a sombre and very lonely day for some, so please send them a text, invite them for a coffee or head round with a thank you card,” he said.

We stand with MAJ Jeremijenko (Retd) this ANZAC Day in commemorating all those who have served our country, and recognise the contribution of our many DVA patients as part of this legacy.

Lest we forget.

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General: wesley.media@uchealth.com.au
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