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Air Force Medical Service 2016 Year in Review

FALLS CHURCH, Va. -- In 2016, the Air Force Medical Service celebrated its 67th anniversary, as its members continued to innovate and educate while supporting the Air Force mission and the Airmen who carry it out. It was quite a busy year for the AFMS as medical Airmen continued to create better patient engagement, more medical innovations, and higher quality of care overall.
 

Improving Care through Patient Engagement

Providing high quality and safe medical care has always been a priority for the AFMS, and this year has seen a lot of key changes toward improving the system already in place. Earlier in the year, how patients access care was enhanced to make the process more simple and streamlined. The idea was to simplify the appointment process and make it easier to schedule visits over the phone. Since then, there’s been a huge focus on patient engagement because the more involved patients are the better their own care is going to be. So far this has culminated with the release of a Patient and Family Engagement Toolkit with even more plans to improve the system going forward.

Research and Innovation

The AFMS focus on improving medical care has led to a lot of new techniques and technologies to make the system faster, make surgeries less painful and keep all Airmen healthier.  Total Exposure Health, for example, is a form of precision health meant to explore the impact of an Airman’s environment and find ways to temper those daily exposures. This is an ongoing project that’s going to see its first real demonstrations in the new year.

Integrated operational support is an innovation the AFMS continues to expand on as well. About 3,500 medical personnel in the Air Force aren’t tied to a military treatment facility or garrison but rather are directly integrated into different units. Some of the Airmen who benefit the most from integrated support are those responsible for remotely piloted aircraft. They often have very unique medical needs as a result of their job and because of the classified nature of their work, there’s a direct benefit to having medics working with them.

Other forms of innovation include developments in en route care, the integration of the Transportation Isolation System, and  development of the first robotic surgery system and training course in the Air Force.

Public Engagements

Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger,  Air Force Surgeon General, and Maj. Gen. Dorothy Hogg,  Deputy Surgeon General, spoke in front of Congress several times throughout the year to address topics like critical care aeromedical transport teams, the Air Force’s suicide prevention program and the future of medical readiness.

Ediger attended the 2016 AMSUS Continuing Education Meeting, which featured health professionals from all around the Department of Defense as well as civilians. He called it a “rare opportunity” to bring all that expertise together in one place. He spoke at the Air Force Association’s breakfast event in June, where he talked about how Air Force Medicine is “evolving” to meet the growing demands of the Air Force mission.

Ediger also attended NOVA 2016 in May and the Senior Leadership Workshop in November. Both conferences gathered medical leaders from all over the AFMS and focused on engaging discussion, medical innovation and ways to push the AFMS forward.

Individual Standouts

Of the 12 Outstanding Airmen of the Year, which covers the entire enlisted Air Force, three awardees were medical Airmen. They were acknowledged by their individual bases, through featured videos, and by Ediger and Chief Master Sgt. Jason Pace, the Chief of the Medical Enlisted Corps, at the Senior Leadership Workshop in Leesburg, Virginia.

1st Lt. Cale Simmons represented the Air Force, and the U.S., in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro as a pole vaulter. Simmons joined the Air Force’s World Class Athletes Program after attending the Air Force Academy, and he called his participation in the program an “opportunity to train and represent my country in the best way.”

Special Operations teams are regularly engaged in missions critical to the Air Force, but the nature of their work stays classified and as a result often underappreciated. One special ops surgical team was able to share their story after a particularly intense deployment compelled them to use medical innovation to the save the lives of hundreds of patients.