2015 Issues   /   February 2015

Air Force Medicine: A Vision for the Future

USM By U.S. Medicine
February 2, 2015

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

The United States Air Force’s core missions are air and space superiority, ISR (intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance), rapid global mobility, global strike, and command and control. These are almost identical (but in different terms) to the missions the USAF had in 1947. But we now do these missions in three domains: Air, Space and Cyberspace.

In the Air Force I grew up in, the “operators” were primarily pilots and navigators. There are many more types of “operators” these days, as air power is projected through the various domains in very new ways. Air Force Medicine is adapting and innovating to better support the airmen who safeguard this country 24/7, 365 days a year. In that regard, Air Force Medicine is now focusing on human performance. This is not a huge shift for us. Since the Air Force Medical Service (AFMS) began in 1949, Air Force medics have focused on occupational and population health and prevention. We are simply taking it to the next level. Our AFMS Strategy embraces this, and to focus on this as a priority, we recently changed the AFMS Vision:

“Our Supported Population is the Healthiest and Highest Performing Segment of the U.S. by 2025”

This is an audacious but achievable goal, which is focused on health rather than healthcare and is clearly connected to the imperative to assure optimal performance of airmen. Every airman (or other servicemember) has human performance demands placed on them by virtue of their operational and mission tasks — and these demands have changed, rather than decreased, due to the technologies employed in current mission environments.

In view of the evolving Air Force, the AFMS is evolving to ensure that as many of our supported servicemembers are available to their commander as possible, able to perform the exquisite set of skills that are now required of them. Health in the context of mission equates to performance, and every medic or healthcare team must know how the mission might affect the health of the individual or unit and how medical support affects the mission.

I think this is just as relevant for other beneficiaries — to include family members and retirees, who also have performance goals in their day-to-day activities. Toward that goal, we have begun either embedding or dedicating medics to directly support missions such as special operations, remotely piloted aircraft, ISR and explosive ordnance disposal, which have had a clearly positive impact on those airmen, their mission effectiveness and their families. We are moving rapidly to make this “mission specific” support a more widespread practice.

At the clinic level, our intent is to provide customized prevention, access and care for patients, recognizing specific stresses associated with career specialties. Our goal is to prevent physical or mental injuries where possible, and, if unable to prevent, then to provide rapid access to the right team for care and recovery to full performance. As a result, mission effectiveness and quality of life should improve, and long-term injuries or illnesses are mitigated to provide for a healthier, more active life, long after separation or retirement. Concordantly, long-term healthcare costs and disability compensation should also decrease.


Related Articles

Despite Overall Longevity Trends, Mortality Increases for Schizophrenia Patients

Since the 1970s, mortality rates have declined, extending average lifespan by almost a decade.

Nightmare Disorder Increases Mental Health Risks in Servicemembers

Lack of sleep has long been a feature of military service.


U.S. Medicine Recommends


More From department of defense dod

Department of Defense (DoD)

High Rate of Pectoralis Tears Among Deployed Servicemembers Lifting Weights

Lifting weights is one way servicemembers keep in peak physical condition during deployment.

Department of Defense (DoD)

DoD Study Finds That Type 2 Diabetes Increases Breast Cancer Mortality

Having Type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM-2) increases mortality risk in breast cancer patients, regardless of whether diabetes was diagnosed before or after breast cancer, according to a recent study.

Department of Defense (DoD)

Now Hear This: Otolaryngologist Leads Effort to Prevent Auditory Issues

Among those who are exposed to combat, it’s the weapons fire that does it. In the Navy, it’s the noise levels in engine rooms and on the decks of carriers.

Department of Defense (DoD)

GAO: ‘Gaps’ in MHS Physician Specialties Could Affect Wartime Readiness

WASHINGTON — The military services need to develop “targeted and coordinated strategies” to alleviate military physician gaps, a recent report recommended.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

VA Vows to Meet Deadline for Revamp of Veteran Claims Appeal Process

WASHINGTON—VA has told legislators that the agency is on track with a new law that will give veterans more options to have their claims appeals reviewed.

Facebook Comment

Subscribe to U.S. Medicine Print Magazine

U.S. Medicine is mailed free each month to physicians, pharmacists, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and administrators working for Veterans Affairs, Department of Defense and U.S. Public Health Service.

Subscribe Now

Receive Our Email Newsletter

Stay informed about federal medical news, clinical updates and reports on government topics for the federal healthcare professional.

Sign Up