Air Force Medicine: Averting an Identity Crisis

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By Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Travis, Surgeon General, United States Air Force

Lt. Gen. Thomas W. Travis

U.S. military forces, now in the second decade of war, benefit from the vast achievements Army, Navy and Air Force medics have jointly made in deployed and enroute health care since 2001. With a 96% survival rate, we have never been better prepared to support our war-fighters. The great majority of our military medics have joined the military during this shooting war, and they have performed magnificently. War creates a readiness and training imperative and opportunity. The current war, now beginning to wane, has put military medicine center stage as an incredibly effective part of this nation’s operational capability. This is a hard-earned and well-documented “identity” for military medics. After this war, while we rightly focus hard on cutting the cost of healthcare as an increasing percentage of the DoD budget, we must not turn away from preparing for the next war, when our nation will expect us to be just as good as, if not better than, we were in this one.

With the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, our real-time, real-world, theater hospital training platform is diminishing. We rejoice that casualty patient movements have dropped significantly. But how do we sustain our position on the cutting edge of trauma care and aeromedical evacuation, ready for the next war, ready to provide “Trusted Care Anywhere?” What will we look like in the future? Averting this potential “identity crisis” depends on the answers to these questions.

Clearly, our post-war medical forces must stay ready through their roles in patient-centered, state-of-the-art, full-tempo health services that ensure competence, currency and satisfaction of practice, as well as foster innovation. Meeting these objectives requires sharp focus on readiness, better care, better health and best value.

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