Leadership Ideas, Information and News

Monday, January 25, 2010

Leaders Speak on Casualty Care and Humanitarian Assistance

By Rob Anastasio
FHP&R Staff Writer

January 25, 2010 - Hope and resilience were the key themes that precipitated from Monday’s second plenary session at the 2010 MHS Conference, where three decorated leaders spoke of the initiatives and leadership surrounding military casualty care and humanitarian assistance.

“All the people in this room have come here today to find better and more effective ways to help wounded warriors and veterans,” said William Schoenhard, deputy undersecretary for health operations and management, Veterans Health Administration (VHA).

The VHA has been the leading force in providing the best system of post-combat support that has ever been offered. In fact, according to recent surveys, VHA patient satisfaction has consistently exceeded that of the private sector. The successes that are seen by VHA are measured by treatment, research, and an integrated systems approach that has proven to be quite effective.

Services that are being offered to veterans include an advanced polytrauma system that has teams of doctors working together for best possible treatment. The latest medical technology and electronic medical records are being leveraged to more accurately reflect patient history. Since 2007, 360,000 veterans have been screened for traumatic brain injury (TBI) and more than 25,000 cases have been confirmed.

As a response to the increasing number of diagnosed TBI and PTSD cases, 4,000 mental health care workers have been hired by VHA, and a suicide prevention hotline is established that has rescued 4,000 veterans from suicide. Schoenhard said that this is “just the beginning of the state of the art care that is being delivered.”

Rear Adm. Richard Jeffries, medical officer of the U.S. Marine Corps, also spoke at the session and said that the Marine Corps has reported 50,000 cases of TBI since Sept. 11, 2001, and 20,000 cases of PTSD.

Jeffries said that, in the U.S. Marine Corps, the survival rate of combat warriors who are wounded in action is 85 - 95 percent. Moreover, the survival rate of a combat warrior who undergoes a massive blood transfusion is 83 - 93 percent.

“Resilience is the most important thing,” said Jeffries. Through TBI mitigation research and new medical technologies, the military serves as the ideal example of a member-centric organization, setting the well-being of the war fighters as a primary interest.

In the global war on terrorism, while combat medical capabilities are at the most advanced state that they have ever been, the Marine Corps has made it a top priority to sustain the quality of life of its warriors. This will be achieved through the Marine Corps’ focus on suicide prevention, TBI, PTSD, and wounded warrior and family readiness programs.

Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Adam Robinson, who concluded the session, said that the focus of the Naval medical community is on force health protection, humanitarian assistance, and combatant relief. Robinson said that “common good is symbolized by this [MHS] conference.”

Robinson pointed to the relief effort in Haiti to illustrate how humanitarian missions build trust and goodwill between nations. “From relationships come trust, and trust is vital,” said Robinson. “Hope is the ability to come together and ensure people have the fundamental building blocks of life.”

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