By Sandra Basu
WASHINGTON—The state of medicine, including federal medicine, is always evolving, and that is why conferences such as the annual AMSUS Annual Continuing Education Meeting are so vital to federal providers, according to AMSUS Executive Director Michael Cowan MD, VADM, USN (Ret.).
“The message to providers is that, if you are a federal health provider, there is something here for you. We have something for everyone,” Cowan said.
This year’s annual AMSUS meeting will be held from Nov. 29 to Dec. 2 in National Harbor, MD. Scheduled speakers include a wide range of key leaders including VHA Under Secretary David Shulkin, MD; House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Military Personnel Chairman Rep. Joe Heck, DO; and Defense Health Agency (DHA) director, Vice Admiral Raquel Bono, among others. According to AMSUS, participants will be able to secure up to 25 CME hours throughout the week.
In addition to the participation of key leaders and availability of CME credits, Cowan points to the opportunity to network with providers from DoD, VA and Public Health Service, as well as international delegates, as another unique element of the meeting.
“The fact of the matter is that people who know each other and have sat down and had a cup of coffee together, work together better than people who don’t,” he pointed out. “We not only build a base of knowledge for the advancement of federal medicine, we advance it through developing the relationships and discussions that do the same.”
AMSUS organizers describe this year’s meeting as a “platform for shared accomplishments and strategies for the future of our ‘new normal’ in healthcare, as federal health systems ‘raise the bar’ to the next level of inter-professional collaborative practices.”
Cowan explained that this “new normal” can be seen in the “dramatic strides and advances in diagnostics, therapeutics, pharmaceuticals and genomics,” and changes such as those brought on by the impact of the Affordable Care Act and other legislation.
In addition, the “new normal” is shaped by the step-down from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that “organizations have become increasingly dependent on one another,” he noted.
Since he served as Navy Surgeon General from 2001 to 2004, Cowan suggested that one of the biggest and most important organizational changes in military medicine has been those associated with the creation of the DHA, which he says will “launch the DoD medical department into a new realm of efficiency and effectiveness.” He also said that VHA also is creating “visionary programs” that will pay off in the future.
“Army, Navy and Air Force medicine used to work in parallel. … Now the services, the VA, the private sector all work hand in hand,” Cowan recounted. “So medicine doesn’t look much, in so many ways, like it did even a decade or two ago. That’s our new normal, and we are just settling into that.”
The theme of the meeting is an “acknowledgement of where we are, which is new and different and aspirational in looking forward to taking the next step up,” he said, adding, “This meeting is raising the bar on that new normal.”
The conference will offer several mini-courses—typically four hours long—on the most important topics of the day in a variety of fields, according to the agenda.
“For example, there will be a mini-course on suicide prevention,” Cowan pointed out. “There will be another on alternatives to opioid treatments. There will be another one on new nonrefrigeration-requiring blood products. There will be one on advances in trauma surgery and efforts to maintain those trauma surgery skills in between wars, and so on.”
In recent years, conferences have met with challenges with stricter federal oversight of conference and travel. In 2012, that led to AMSUS ultimately having to cancel its annual meeting. Cowan said, however, said that the meeting has emerged from that as a more essential educational conference.
“Our silver lining has been that, up until then, the AMSUS conference had become a kind of a meeting of the clans,” he said. “Various organizations used it to have organization meetings. We have since evolved AMSUS into a real 21st meeting. It is no longer about the nuts and bolts of running the business of [the medical departments of the agencies]. It is now about learning and professional development. It’s all about that.” For more information please visit: www.amsusmeetings.org