FALLS CHURCH, Va, --
Lt. Gen. Dorothy Hogg knows she has her work cut out for her as she leads the Air Force Medical Service during a time of transition.
Newly appointed as the 23rd U.S. Air Force Surgeon General, Hogg is eager to address the challenges facing Air Force Medicine. She says that focusing on medical readiness and innovation will drive the AFMS forward.
“Readiness is job number one,” said Hogg. “The only reason we have medics serving in uniform is to go to war.”
Hogg sees opportunities in the near future to sharpen that focus. In October 2018, administration of military treatment facilities begins transitioning to the Defense Health Agency. Hogg thinks having the DHA manage delivery of the health benefit will allow the AFMS to focus on its readiness mission.
“For years, we’ve had the competing priorities of delivering the benefit and our core readiness mission,” said Hogg. “Now, as a service, we can really make readiness the top priority, and devote our time, energy, and focus to operational medicine and preparing for deployment.”
Hogg thinks Air Force Medicine needs to advance its current deployment platforms and develop new ones to meet combatant commanders’ future requirements.
“The Air Force has always provided light, lean, and agile medical forces,” said Hogg. “We are now pushing damage control surgery and aeromedical evacuation closer to the point of injury. We need to keep finding new ways to accomplish that mission, while still fitting our deployment packages on the back of an airplane.”
Today, American forces are accustomed to setting up field hospitals to deliver care, and having access to forward airfields. Hogg says Air Force Medicine needs to prepare to deliver medical support in combat theater without access to hospitals and airfields.
“We need to train our medics to address all of the threats we face today, and those we may face in the future,” said Hogg. “Right now, many of our patients come to us, even in theater. We’ve got to improve our ability to go out on the battlefield, stabilize them, scoop them up, and get them to the next level of care.”
Hogg’s desire to innovate and find new solutions on the battlefield and at home station reflects her vision for the AFMS. As the medical community changes, Air Force Medicine needs to keep pace. This means finding new ways to provide operational medical support to those we serve, expanding the reach of Air Force medics beyond the military treatment facility.
“The Trusted Care principle ‘Every Airman, Every day, A Problem Solver’ is something we need to encourage and model,” said Hogg. “I want everyone in our organization, from the top to the bottom, thinking about how we can innovate. Don’t wait for the 100 percent perfect solution. We can take the successful parts and build on them.”
One area where Hogg sees room for growth is virtual and telemedicine. With a limited population of patients and specialty providers, leveraging technology to connect them will improve access.
Hogg also sees room for growth in AFMS partnerships with other health organizations.
“Our partnerships are indispensable to maintaining the currency and competency of medical Airmen,” said Hogg. “We’ve known for a while that our organic facilities do not bring the volume, diversity, or acuity of patients needed to keep all our medics current on all the skills they need for deployment.”
Placing medical Airmen in partner hospitals ensures Air Force Medicine can treat patients along the entire continuum of trauma care, from the initial injury to final rehabilitation. Providers who have very specialized skills along that continuum benefit greatly from working in partner platforms. Hogg thinks the AFMS should expand these opportunities when and where it makes sense.
“Right now, our partnerships offer episodic training venues. Our medics embed for a limited length of time, and repeat it once or twice a year,” said Hogg. “Is that enough to keep them current all the time? What if they need to deploy and it has been several months since they were performing trauma surgery?
“I think we should pursue training agreements that embed our medics at partner facilities long term, as their full-time duty station. We’ll need to build these relationships so both organizations gain from this experience.”
In her previous role as Deputy Surgeon General and Chief of the Air Force Nurse Corps, Hogg had many opportunities to get out into the field and hear from Airmen. She recognizes there are anxieties in the organization, but urges Airmen to stay confident and focus on their mission, providing Trusted Care with zero harm.
“My message to Airmen is to keep doing what you’re doing,” said Hogg. “Keep taking care of our patients. Continue to treat them as the most important person from the moment they come through the door.”
Hogg is the first woman and the first nurse to serve as the Air Force Surgeon General. She recognizes the historic significance of this accomplishment.
She believes the Air Force prepared her well for this position in her 34-year career. She has been at every platform of care honing her leadership skills from bedside nursing to ambulatory care, from element chief to Deputy Surgeon General, and now Surgeon General. She also recognizes this opens up the opportunity for others to aspire to be the next Surgeon General based on their leadership ability.
“Being a nurse is a part of who I am. The diversity of experience in my career gave me an appreciation of all the different perspectives we have in Air Force Medicine. A nurse looks at problems differently from a doctor, who sees things differently from a technician, an administrator, a pharmacist or a lab tech.
“None of those views are wrong, just different. We need to hear from all of those perspectives to find the best solutions. Every member of the team has something valuable to contribute.”
That perspective does not just apply to leadership. Hogg looks to all levels of the organization to be disruptive innovators, calling on everyone in the AFMS to speak up if they have good ideas.
“Sometimes, all a good idea needs is for the boss to get out of the way and let it flourish,” said Hogg. “New things can be scary, we all know that. Your rank, your corps, your gender, your ethnicity, none of that matters. Constructively challenge the status quo. You don’t need a title to be a leader.”
Hogg has a motto that drives her leadership style. “One is too small a number to achieve greatness.” That means that no one person has all the answers. Hogg is ready to apply that creed to the next chapter in Air Force Medicine.
“I am humbled by this opportunity to lead the remarkable AFMS Airmen, and I’m excited for the future,” said Hogg. “We have an incredible opportunity right now to define our destiny, to change our path. Let’s take this opportunity right now to improve and innovate our medical readiness posture and stay focused on the Air Force mission.”