“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” — Edward Everett (1794-1865)
Since 2001, I have had the good fortune to serve as the leader of the Defense and Veterans Center for Integrative Pain Management, Rockville, MD (DVCIPM — www.DVCIPM.org). Though this organization has had other names since its inception, it has always focused on improving pain management for warriors and their families at home and on the modern battlefield. The DVCIPM is principally a pain medicine research and coordination organization with a focus on applied science to improve the care of military families today.
Editor-In-Chief, Chester “Trip” Buckenmaier III, MD COL, MC, USA
I have been extraordinarily blessed as a federal medicine physician to be able to work in my chosen profession with many talented health professionals and support personnel who share a common goal to improve pain management because, “It’s the right thing to do for soldiers.” I am constantly amazed and humbled by the dedication and genius of DVCIPM employees and collaborators as they strive to improve military pain medicine through applied research. They endeavor to improve military pain care, not because of the excellent pay (nobody is getting rich) or the consistent work hours (consistently long and inconsistent), but for the desire to be a part of something important, meaningful and larger than themselves. I think for many, if not most, federal medicine providers and staff, this represents an overall common desire, theme and attraction.
While I am quite proud of my organization, the people associated with it and the work we do, there are other more subtle advantages to working in federal medicine. I have come to learn that organizations like DVCIPM, which emphasizes service to the larger community and country, have other unexpected but powerful benefits to our society.
Our first DVCIPM employee began as a new college graduate and volunteer. She had an interest in medicine and was looking for a summer volunteer medical position. Her dedication and hard work quickly landed her on the payroll, and soon she was a vital employee in all manner of DVCIPM projects. In this position, she was able to observe medical team personnel, participate in the care they give and experience medical administration firsthand. She soon expressed a desire to go to medical school, which the team supported and promoted. Her work with DVCIPM facilitated this goal because she was an author on peer-reviewed medical research from the organization, had established credentials in a respected medical system and was armed with glowing letters of recommendation. We continued to support her with work during breaks from school and words of encouragement during visits and phone calls throughout her postgraduate studies and internship. We were her work “family.”
I could not have been more pleased when I learned that she has decided to specialize in my field, anesthesiology, and had been accepted to a nationally recognized residency program. She was the first, but I am happy to say nowhere near the last, young person that DVCIPM has supported as they develop into medical professionals.
While my employees at DVCIPM have delivered the organization many laudable accomplishments over the years, I believe I am most satisfied with the young men and women who have used the program to further their own medical education goals. The organization provides meaningful employment and support while exposing these future professionals to medical research and the vast opportunities and career fields in modern medicine. We never set out to do this specifically; it just happened.
My employees, by striving to do their best, naturally began to attract the best young medical talent. The DVCIPM has served as the springboard for many developing medical careers in a variety of specialties and professions. I have come to understand over the years that, while it is not the specific goal of DVCIPM to support medical education, it is perhaps one of its most important byproducts. Certainly, we have influenced the field of military pain medicine today, but, through our young professionals, we are affecting federal medicine’s future for many decades to come.
I am sure this story about the primacy of medical education to our profession is no mystery to federal medicine readers. The importance of medical educators is at the very core of the profession, as noted in the Hippocratic Oath, “To hold him who has taught me this art as equal to my parents and to live my life in partnership with him. …” I truly am blessed to work in the federal system and have a hand in the education of federal medicine’s next generation. It is a tremendous honor and awesome responsibility. I plan to redouble my efforts and the efforts of those I lead to be equal to the task.
The modern corollary to the wisdom of Confucius would be Albert Einstein’s quote, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” For me, one of the greatest attractions during my 30-plus years in the medical profession is the humbling impact this career has on personal perceptions of what I perceive to “know.”
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