Local physician works for change in Iraq

Swearing to devote himself to improving the lives of others didn't just pertain to the Hippocratic oath that Navy Cmdr. Dennis McKenna took in 1992.

The son of Ellen and Peter McKenna of Delmar, McKenna is married to the former Karen Delley of Voorheesville, but his influence goes well beyond the Capital District.

In the rural town of Rutbah in Iraq's western al-Anbar Province, McKenna has gone above and beyond, working with forces and the Iraqi Ministry of the Interior to reopen the town's only hospital. He is also dedicated to establishing an economic base, which he says will be the catalyst for overall improvement in the quality of life there.

McKenna, 42, is the battalion surgeon for 2nd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, 4th Marine Division, a reserve unit based in Garden City. A 20-year Navy reservist, he's on a one-year mobilization with the battalion, which is attached to Regimental Combat Team 5.

McKenna is an emergency medicine physician at Albany Medical Center as a civilian, where he has worked for 11 years. When he's not mobilized, McKenna drives 360 miles round trip one weekend every month from his Selkirk home to attend reserve drills.

I believe in service, McKenna said in an interview with Capt. Paul Greenberg, Regimental Combat Team 5. "I believe you have to give something back, and I love serving with the Marines."

Even though he has a science and medical background, McKenna volunteered to take on the collateral duty as the economics line of operations officer (LOO).

"I bring a common sense approach, identifying problems and proposing logical solutions,"said McKenna. "That is what it takes to be a LOO " someone with a real passion for the subject and who is able to present the commander with different options. The lines of operations are about setting the people of Rutbah up for success. We need to find those people, those Bill Gates and Thomas Jeffersons. These people have been reluctant to show their potential in the past because of the situation that existed here for so long."

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