Dr. Robert A. Duarte said he did not know anybody in his family – or any close friends – who had served before he was appointed to the New York Guard as a captain earlier this month.
But after discussions with the surgeon general of the New York Guard and other military personnel at the Guard’s Centennial Ball, Duarte said he felt a strong desire to volunteer and give back to the country.
“That was sort of the clincher to me,” Duarte, the director of the Northwell Health Neuroscience Pain Center in Great Neck and president of the New York State Pain Society, said in an interview. “As a physician, you help serve the community and as a member of the New York Guard, I will be helping to serve the New York Guard community.”
The New York Guard is a state volunteer force that supports the New York National Guard through planning, training for and executing emergency support, as well as providing legal and medical pre-deployment services to units as requested.
Duarte will serve with the 244th Medical Division as the primary physician for the Long Island region. In that role he will be responsible for medically evaluating New York Guard recruits and re-enlistees and could be called on to assist the National Guard in state emergencies and local disasters.
Duarte, who is also a member of the Concussion Center at Northwell Health, said he feels his expertise could also help educate military personnel on traumatic brain injury and other issues.
Duarte said he hopes his volunteering for the New York Guard will help inspire others in the medical and non-medical profession to give back and serve the country.
When asked to give advice to someone thinking of joining the New York Guard or volunteering, Duarte said, “it must be a decision from their heart and soul.”
“I can only provide this person some knowledge on what is involved, what is necessary, but again it is up to that individual person to make that decision,” Duarte said. “It is not something that I can force on.”