Written by John McElligott
The Rocket Lounge was just down the street from Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita-Falls Texas. Now what was I doing there and why?
Well I was a student at Duke University School of Medicine in the Physician Associate Program. I was just elected to run for National Student President of the AAPA (America Academy of PA’s) and Sheppard was were the national meeting was hosted.
Jeff Heinrich was the current president and he was a class ahead of me at Duke. He was also just being medivac from Vietnam as I was arriving at the party just south of where Jeff was serving with the famous 9th Marines in the DMZ and Dong Ha area. Jeff was wounded by a grenade that exploded in his area during a fire fight. He carried a huge scar on his forehead for the rest of his life along with his Purple Heart Pin. He wore this pin every time he put on a suit and was moved to the head of many lines at bars and restaurants because of his heroism as a Navy Corpsman with the Marines and his PH pin.
Now while running for president for the following year 1974-75 Jeff told me how to do it. Every night we played pool and strategized at the Rocket. By the end of the week it was election head quarters and the beer was flowing and guess what? Thanks to Jeff I was elected the 2nd ever Student President
of the AAPA and went on to serve on the board for 6 more years and help start the Texas Academy and the Tennessee Academy. Thanks to Jeff’s tutelage I went on to be on faculty at UT Southwestern in Dallas and UT Knoxville TN, South College Knoxville TN, and Yale University School of Medicine @the Griffin Hospital. Guess who was on faculty at Yale School of Medicine at the same time… Jeff. Jeff ran the Burn Unit in the Department of Plastic Surgery and later became a Dr. of Education Teaching at George Washington University in DC. My last faculty appointment was at Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) starting up a PA program. Guess who I hired? Jeff who had just retired and I needed help setting up clinical rotations for LMU. Jeff took over and set up live in facilitates and teaching staff at Yale facilities from New Haven CT to Derby CT and on to Bridge Port CT.
Jeff and I remained very close friends and I never said NO! to one of his requests ever. What a guy! He was my role model for years. See RIP I will miss him dearly he was a man’s man.