SAMHS Transfer of Authority
In a ceremony held at San Antonio Military Medical Center, Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan, front left, assumed authority as the director of the San Antonio Military Health System from Air Force Maj. Gen. Byron C. Hepburn, front right, who will now serve as the deputy director. During the transfer of authority, the senior enlisted advisors, Army Command Sergeant Major Marshall L. Huffman, back left, and Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Maurice A. James, back right, follow the generals as they trade places, symbolically marking the transfer of leadership from Air Force to Army. (U.S. Army photo by Erin Perez/Released)

JBSA-FORT SAM HOUSTON, TEXAS -- An historic moment took place today within the Department of Defense, right here in San Antonio. To meet the changing needs of military medicine in today's environment, and particularly with the budget constraints our federal government faces today, Army and Air Force healthcare systems, to include the San Antonio Military Medical Center, the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center and other clinics, began to integrate two years ago under the organization known as the San Antonio Military Health System.

Today, Air Force Maj. Gen. Byron C. Hepburn, commander, 59th Medical Wing, relinquished the position as director of the SAMHS to Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan, commanding general, Southern Regional Medical Command, during the first SAMHS transfer of authority ceremony Sept. 12 at the San Antonio Military Medical Center's Auditorium.

The SAMHS officially stood up on Sept. 15, 2011, to integrate Army and Air Force health care delivery in San Antonio to increase efficiencies and reduce military medical care costs. Hepburn was named as the first director. The position alternates between the Air Force and Army every two years. The deputy director's position was previously held by Maj. Gen. M. Ted Wong, who relinquished command of SRMC and the position of deputy director of SAMHS, to Keenan in June.

On Oct. 1, SAMHS will receive new authorities as an enhanced Multiservice Market based on a March Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum mandating significant change within the Military Health System. As the SAMHS Director, Keenan will have direct authority to oversee and sustain a high-quality military health system across San Antonio, not just within Army or Air Force facilities. She will manage the budget allocation for the Army and Air Force military treatment facilities in San Antonio, direct teams to adopt common clinical and business functions, optimize military readiness requirements to deploy medically ready forces, and direct that personnel and work functions move among San Antonio military treatment facilities to best support the patients and missions. Also, on Oct. 1, a Defense Health Agency is established in Washington, D.C., to assume shared functions, services and activities of the Army, Navy, and Air Force within the Military Health System that until now had been managed by the individual services.

Before taking command of the 59th MDW in November 2010, Hepburn was the deputy surgeon general for Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., where he was responsible for directing all Air Force Medical Service operations. There, he managed the Air Force Medical Service's $5.1 billion, 43,000-person integrated health care delivery system serving 2.4 million beneficiaries worldwide. Additionally, he previously served as the command surgeon for U.S. European Command and Air Mobility Command. One of the Air Force's few pilot-physicians, Hepburn has commanded a medical squadron, group and center, and is a command pilot with more than 3,000 flying hours in the T-37, T-38, C-9A and C-17A.

During his two-year tenure as the director of SAMHS, Hepburn drove efficiencies and optimization of the direct care system and use of the purchased care network by providing improved health care services, supporting graduate medical education and training, and supporting basic/clinical biomedical research.

Hepburn said, "Our five-year plan is to achieve $237 million in savings. In partnership with our Army colleagues, we will continue to 'crank the mission'. We owe it to our patients and their families."

Prior to assuming command of SRMC, Keenan was the commanding general, U.S. Public Health Command. Keenan is also the U.S. Army Nurse Corps chief. She will be the first Army general officer to hold the position of director of SAMHS, overseeing military health care delivery across the San Antonio metropolitan area. Keenan entered the Army as a nurse corps officer in July 1986, receiving her commission through the Reserve Officer Training Corps at Henderson State University in Arkansas. She holds a Master of Science in Nursing Administration from the Medical College of Georgia and a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. She has also served as a Congressional Fellow for former Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas.

Keenan addressed the audience during the ceremony, saying, "We must be integrated, we must work together. We cannot afford not to do so. We have a responsibility to take care of America's sons and daughters. We are: One Military, One team, Patients first, Partners always."

Page last updated Fri September 13th, 2013 at 00:00