Veterans Across CUIMC Share Memories and Lessons

November 10, 2022

From the Revolutionary War to today, physicians, nurses, researchers, students, and staff of Columbia University Irving Medical Center have served in the nation's military.

In honor of Veterans Day Nov. 11, we spoke with four CUIMC veterans about their service and its impact on their lives.

Rudolph L. Leibel, MD

Rudolph L. Leibel, MD, is the Christopher J. Murphy Memorial Professor of Diabetes Research and head of the Division of Molecular Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics at the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons. For the past 25 years Leibel has also served as co-director of the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center. Leibel served in the Army Medical Corps as a general medical officer from 1969 to 1971 and was stationed in Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and Fort Devens, Massachusetts. 

Rudolph Leibel in the Army Medical Corps
Rudolph Leibel, MD

“I went from completing only two years of training as a pediatrician to a setting in which I was required to care for individuals from birth to seniority. I learned a great deal very quickly, much of it self-taught. I have endeavored to maintain habits of self-education. 

“The military is an organization comprised of individuals from all over the country and beyond, with diverse backgrounds and sensitivities. Befriending, learning how to learn from, caring for, and teaching such individuals was an experience that continues to inform my relationships with professional associates and friends. I believe many physicians would benefit from such an experience. In fact, some of the divisiveness and intolerance that characterizes our current political discourse might be mitigated by broader exposure of our citizens to such circumstances.” 

Joseph M. McManus Jr., DMD

Joseph M. McManus Jr., DMD, is associate professor of dental medicine (in community health) at the College of Dental Medicine. McManus served in the Navy as a dental officer from 1972 to 1974. He was stationed at Philadelphia Naval Base, where he achieved the rank of lieutenant. 

Joseph M. McManus, Jr. with mother-in-law
Joseph M. McManus, Jr., DMD

“The Vietnam War was on, and I was safe in dental school. As a son of an Irish immigrant, I was sensitive to the fact that the United States gave me enormous opportunities and I felt an obligation to do my part. Therefore, I enlisted in the Navy during my first year of dental school at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I was proud to serve, but in all honesty, the Navy gave me much more than I gave them. I had the opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with brave young men and women from all over the country who shared my desire to serve. And yet we were called ‘war mongers’ and a lot worse. I truly hope that all those who wear the uniform can wear it proudly and will never again have to face such disrespect.”  

Scotty Morris

Scotty Morris is a general mechanic for CUIMC. Morris served in the Army as a field artillery radio operator from 1985 to 1993, achieving the rank of sergeant. Morris’ active service included stints at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina; Fort Gordon in Georgia; along the DMZ in Korea; and at Camp Doha in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm.

Scotty Morris in the U.S. Army
Scotty Morris

“My father served during the Korean War, and my grandfather served in World War I. I was always interested in the military, so it felt right to join the Army when I did.”

Morris enjoyed bonding with his fellow enlistees and recalls with pride doing his part to keep the country safe from foreign threats. And the work ethic and self-discipline that served him well in the Army play a significant role in his work today. “When parents and trustees attend our graduations, they expect the place to look good. When we’re done painting, it looks brand new.” 

Jeet Viswanathan

Jeet Viswanathan is director of energy management and sustainability at CUIMC. Viswanathan is currently a U.S. Army Reservist, on contract to serve until July 2024. Based in Fort Dix, New Jersey, Viswanathan is a human resources specialist with the rank of E5 sergeant. 

Jeet Viswanathan in the U.S. Army
Jeet Viswanathan

“As an immigrant to this country, America allowed me to excel and build myself up in multiple ways, for example, in my career. I believe in what America stands for, and I wanted to give back to the country that gave me so much. 

“The military is about time and resource management to overcome any obstacles effectively. I continue to use this in my day-to-day work at CUIMC. Some quick examples are being to the point, finding solutions, and implementing them without delay.”