Rob Marsh’s father was Secretary of the Army John O. “Jack” Marsh. Most of Rob’s colleagues, when he was an enlisted SF medic or when, after he followed the path of many SF medics to medical school and wound up as the special operations unit called Delta’s command surgeon, didn’t know that detail about him.
They just knew he was a good mofo. Like a lot of folks, he got wounded in October, 1993, and like a lot of them, it was the end of a military career — but not of a career of service. Marsh was recently named Country Doctor of the Year, due to his practice which combines the best of modern medicine with the values of a Norman Rockwell family doctor. Here’s a small excerpt from a profile at Western Shooting Journal:
The following day, what Marsh says was simply a lucky shot for some unskilled Somali mortar crew landed in the midst of a group of soldiers with whom he’d been standing, killing one elite U.S. fighter and inflicting devastating wounds on Marsh’s lower body and legs.
Quick thinking by his comrades in arms prevented him from bleeding out on the spot, he says, but Marsh would never again deploy with Delta and retired in 1996 as a lieutenant colonel.
“I never regained the physical skills I needed to stay on jump status,” he says. “I probably could have stayed in Army medicine, but I just didn’t feel that calling, I felt another calling, that I wanted to come do family medicine practice back in Virginia, where I grew up.”
Home in the valley
Marsh, a devout Christian, said he felt he was following God’s direction for his life when he returned to Virginia for good in 1996, but he still had some doubts. He opened a clinic in remote Middlebrook — near his newly purchased farm and just five miles from the place his grandmother was born — and began taking patients.
“I was a little worried how that transition was going to be,” he said. “You know — doctor of the high speed army unit coming back here.”
But the transition felt natural, he said, because once he settled in, the amount of responsibility that immediately fell on his shoulders was huge. Today he has 3,500 active patients. Not only is the number far higher than the typical primary care doctor’s 2,300 patients, his range of services for his patients is wider than normal.
“I think being in a rural area, one, your patients want you to do as much for them as you can,” he said. “By that I mean, they don’t like to be referred” to other, distant doctors.
As a result, Marsh was handling more complex cases than do most primary care physicians in an age of hyperspecialization. And it felt kind of like the Army.
“Instead of gunshot wounds,” he said with a chuckle, “chainsaw injuries.”
One of the advantages of civilian life back in 1996 was going to be more time with his wife and four children, now high-school and college age, he says. But his practice in Middlebrook—which grew enough that he in recent years opened a new office next to a giant truck stop on the interstate in Raphine—has become as absorbing as his Army work ever was.
His wife, Barbara, a registered nurse who works in the Middlebrook office, grew up in the suburbs of Newport News, Virginia, and said the practices of country medicine took came as a surprise.
Rob Marsh is a good guy, and he’ll be slightly embarrassed by this honor, and otherwise, completely unchanged. We’re a little biased because he did some repair work on a friend in the interstitial period between the big fight and his own near-death experience, and we never would have gotten to meet the guy without Rob and the unit medics.