MHS leaders focus on readiness, collaboration to advance military health care

MHS Leaders Focus on Readiness, Collaboration to Advance Military Health Care
MHS Leaders Focus on Readiness, Collaboration to Advance Military Health Care

MHS leaders focus on readiness, collaboration to advance military health care

by Christopher McCoy

Medical professionals from across the Military Health System, the federal government, and international organizations met in National Harbor, Maryland, at the annual meeting of AMSUS, the Society of Federal Health Professionals, in February. At two plenary sessions, MHS senior leaders spoke about their joint vision for the future of military health.

Ms. Seileen Mullen, principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, moderated a panel on Feb. 13 featuring U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Telita Crosland, director of the Defense Health Agency; U.S. Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Robert I. Miller; U.S. Navy Surgeon General Rear Adm. Bruce L. Gillingham; U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Paul Friedrichs, Joint Staff Surgeon; and Dr. Jonathon Woodson, President, Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. On Feb. 16, Mullen moderated a panel comprised of Dingle, Gillingham, and Miller.

The speakers shared the significance and value of the partnership between the DHA, Army Medicine, Navy Medicine, and the Air Force Medical Service.

“We must understand that the MHS is an ecosystem of interdependent organizations,” said Dingle. “Just like an ecosystem, sometimes lines are blurred. But we must work together in order to survive. And that teamwork in an ecosystem is how we will be able to accomplish that.”

Woodson highlighted the importance of continued partnerships across the services.

“There are both internal and external collaborations. Obviously, we want to link arms with the services and the Defense Health Agency to identify where we can be best supporting all of those activities in a complementary way,” said Woodson. “It’s an evolving story.”

Leaders agreed that there are future opportunities for the MHS as it completes a period of major transformation and emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We, as an organization, need to adopt a culture that embraces innovation in a disciplined way. My first step is to be able to see all the great things out there that are going on… [and] move us as an organization from the brick and mortar to a digitalized organization,” said Crosland.

Friedrichs noted how access to a wealth of data can help forecast the future health care needs of the military.

“One of the great strengths of the DHA and our joint trauma systems [that] we’ve now built is the greatest collection of military medical data in the history of mankind. That allows us to begin to understand and project in a variety of scenarios, what our casualties will look like, and how challenging it will be to care for them,” he said. “We must have the courage to say with that data, here’s what the cost of war will be, so that our political leaders are able to make the most informed choice.”

With the DHA having assumed administration of all military hospitals and clinics, the service medical departments are forging a clear path to support the readiness of their medical forces.

Dingle, Gillingham, and Miller outlined how they’re preparing their medical forces for the battlefield. Emphasizing the challenges of potential near-peer conflicts and the need for greater flexibility, the leaders called for a medical force that can adapt to meet any challenge, anywhere in the world.

“But I can tell you that everybody on this stage is committed to getting there, to where we need to be,” said Gillingham. “When the team goes downrange, they're ready to go. And we’re offering absolutely the best possible care that we can.”

“I think all of the surgeons on this day would concur that we exist for that readiness mission,” said Miller, “It’s thanks to the support of the DHA looking back over the last 10 years. And it’s come a long way.”

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