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Outreach tour educates nation's top medical civic leaders

LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFPN) -- Some of the nation's leading health care professionals recently got a close look at one of the most vital missions in the Air Force -- health care for the wounded.

The tour, sponsored by the Secretary of the Air Force's National Civic Outreach office, brought representatives from national medical organizations in the Chicago area to the Air Force's largest training hospital in the world: Wilford Hall Medical Center.

The one-day event began just before dawn on Jan. 23 when a group of 35 people boarded a C-17 aircraft at Chicago's O'Hare Airport to witness a simulated aeromedical evacuation process in flight.

The group, made up of chief executive officers and medical directors of hospitals, rehabilitation centers, medical schools and Veteran's Adminstration hospitals, was led by Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Byron Hepburn, command surgeon for Air Mobility Command.

An air evacuation crew from the 183rd Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron in Jackson, Miss., and a critical care air transport team from the 81st Medical Group, Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., teamed up to provide in-flight demonstrations.

Upon arrival at Wilford Hall Medical Center, the group received briefings on a variety of topics, including: the transport of wounded patients from the battlefield, advances in trauma care, dental and facial reconstruction procedures, and the continuing care of war-related mental health conditions.

"We already have a great synergy between our civilian medical counterparts and our military and Veterans Administration medical systems, but we need to continue to strengthen those relationships ... not only to care for wounded warriors and their families today, but to conduct the research to enhance the quality of their care in the future," General Hepburn said.

Wounded warriors separating from the service, particularly those requiring long-term care and rehabilitation, must transition into the civilian medical community.

"We need to understand the type of medical care the wounded receive from the military so servicemembers can receive the best possible long-term care once they transition into our civilian medical community," said Ms. Georgia Casciato, chief marketing officer, Health e Technologies, LLC.

"Along with learning about the Air Force's air evacuation process and the expedient and effective medical care given to our wounded soldiers, I was immensely impressed with the data collection process that the Air Force has designed so they can make changes in real time," said Dr. Edward Langston, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the American Medical Association.

"I actually felt a true commitment from the Air Force to do the best job possible for the wounded warriors," said Mr.William Devoney, vice president for finance, University of Illinois Medical Center.

"I never thought the Air Force abandoned their wounded, but I now sense an even greater commitment to being there for them, post military service," Mr. Devoney said.

During lunch, guests were paired up with hospital personnel who had previously deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

"Most striking were the high levels of passion, enthusiasm, dedication, compassion, knowledge and ingenuity of the personnel," said Dr. Elliot Roth, senior vice president and chief academic officer for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.

The tour concluded with a trip to the Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art rehabilitation center for wounded servicemembers, located at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

"It was apparent to me in a conversation with a young officer that the troops truly live the Air Force core values -- integrity, service before self and excellence in all you do," said Ms.Kathleen Yosko, president and CEO of Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital and Medical Group.

"This was an important opportunity to educate high-level medical leaders on the capabilities of the Department of Defense's enroute care system, which is providing historically successful care to those wounded or injured in the current war," said Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas W. Travis, commander of the 59th Medical Wing at Wilford Hall Medical Center.

"This joint system includes aid at the point of injury, initial surgical resuscitation at forward sites, medevac to the theater hospitals in Iraq and Afghanistan, and air evacuation and critical care air transport to return patients for definitive care in the United States," General Travis said.

"Not only does the 59th Medical Wing provide much of the Air Force part of this capability in deployed settings, we proudly provide much of the training for those who will fulfill these missions in the future."

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