Army medicine rubs elbows with Ivy League
April 25, 2011
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 25, 2011) -- The Army Medical Department made history by cracking open a door to military recruiting that's been tightly closed for more than 40 years.
Students, faculty and staff at the Yale School of Medicine toured a mock version of a forward surgical hospital on display on campus, April 14, 2011.
Deployed to the front lines during war, actual forward medical facilities can be erected and functional in an hour -- fully equipped with the tools and medical personnel necessary to save severely wounded servicemembers during what is considered the "golden hour" of injury.
Attendees met with members of the 947th Forward Surgical Team, which is deploying to Iraq in May, about the capabilities of the roving hospital.
"There hasn't been this much brass on campus since World War II," said Dr. Kristaps Keggi, a professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at Yale, who served in a MASH unit on the front lines during the Vietnam War.
Dubbed Operation Golden Odyssey, the event was not a recruiting effort, but rather a joint educational symposium between Army medicine and the university to showcase to the campus community the Army's expertise in medicine, life-saving procedures and vast humanitarian outreach.
In initiating this venture, Maj. Michael Filipowicz, officer in charge of the medical recruiting station in Wallingford, Conn., wanted to help dispel the myth that the Army is just about fighting wars.
"We're doing humanitarian missions across the globe and that's something Yale is very interested in," said Filipowicz. "We shined a bright light on a dark subject and successfully illuminated the great things the Army and Army medicine does for local and international communities."
Never before has Army medicine been allowed to display such a robust presence at Yale, and it's been difficult for military recruiters to reach out to students ever since ROTC was removed from campus in 1969.
Filipowicz believed some students at Yale, which is ranked among the top 10 in medical research, could potentially be interested in money for college and medical training only the Army can offer.
In an effort to eventually open that door, he approached the university about working together on developing a mutually beneficial presentation. Much to his surprise, Yale's administration was receptive to his idea.
Dr. Robert Alpern, dean of Yale School of Medicine felt the event was a success and said Yale is committed to doing what it can to support the U.S. armed forces and their students.
"As a medical school committed to health care around the world, Yale applauds the Army for taking on a humanitarian role and hope our students will come to understand this role our armed forces play," Alpern said. "I was impressed, but not surprised, by the level of sophistication of the medicine practiced."
"We wish to provide information to our students so they can best make decisions regarding their career choice [and believe] our students would benefit from knowing more about educational and career opportunities in the Army," Alpern explained.
Col. Raymond Dingle, Army Medical Recruiting Brigade commander, said visitors to the forward surgical hospital were "blown away and impressed" with what they saw.
"It was great to hear folks who've never served before saying (they) support the U.S. Army and (that) military service is honorable," said Dingle. "We probably gained 50 advocates that day."
Kristin McJunkins, director of Health Professions Advising on the undergraduate level at Yale was impressed with how quickly a forward surgical team is able to set up. She meets with hundreds of students a year and is looking forward to spreading the word about Army opportunities.
"The technology available to treat wounded Soldiers and allowing them to remain functional members of society after serious injury is an astounding advancement that we need to hear more about in the general public," McJunkins said. "Being part of the Army is certainly not for everyone, but for those students who can thrive in a military environment, there are great opportunities to practice medicine in a wide variety of arenas -- domestic, international, war zones -- that they may not have in another medical training program."
Dr. David Leffell, deputy dean for Clinical Affairs and a professor of dermatology and surgery at Yale, said the military, like universities, provides skill training and leadership education. The military also reinforces values similar to those in Yale's own value system, which are present in the university motto, "For God, for country and for Yale."
"I think the opportunity for medical students and residents to spend time in the military and learn about the culture and understand the importance of what you do is critical to creating well-rounded physicians who will be better able to contribute and give back to their country," Leffell said.
Because the event at Yale was not a recruiting effort, no "lead cards" were generated, but Filipowicz estimates about 80 students attended who he said were extremely impressed by the scope of humanitarian missions across the globe and the mobility of Army surgical care.
Filipowicz and Lt. Col. Pablito Gahol, commander of 1st Medical Recruiting Brigade, believe the credibility of this newly formed partnership will ripple through social media and in the long run, eventually generate leads and interest not just from Yale, but other universities as well.
"The immediate return on investment is simply the promotion of the Army medical department, the acknowledgment that we exist and that we're not just about the war fight," said Filipowicz. "We were beating the medical drum, but playing the Army song."
"It was all about developing a long-term partnership, and that we achieved," said Gahol.