Centers of Influence Become Medical Recruiting Ambassadors
November 23, 2011
By Fonda Bock
Touring the home of Army Medicine at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, was a life-changing experience for Dr. Kerri Remmel, a neurologist and director of the University of Louisville Stroke Program. During the Army Medicine Experience there in September, she listened to inspiring stories of grievously wounded Soldiers determined to not just survive but triumph over their debilitating injuries, met healthcare professionals committed to helping them live full lives and saw the Army's cutting edge technology that pieces them back together.
"The experience stirred up feelings of pride in my country and in the Soldiers representing us," said Remmel. "I had no idea about Army medical research, training and healthcare, nor did I realize the needs. If I were 20 years old, I'd sign up. Since that's not possible, I hope to help recruit great healthcare personnel for our military to serve the Soldiers and their families."
Influential voices to spread the word about opportunities in Army Medicine -- that's what Medical Recruiting Brigade Commander Col. R. Scott Dingle was searching for when he came up with the idea for the Army Medicine Experience, an event geared toward "super" centers of influence.
Remmel was one of almost 30 elite healthcare leaders from across the country to participate in the inaugural event.
As they walked through the San Antonio Military Medical Center and the Center for the Intrepid, Army physicians explained how -- through the Army's cutting edge medicine, research and technology -- Soldiers with extreme burns, injuries and amputations are able to not only survive and heal, but also go on to live productive lives. The COIs heard firsthand from wounded warrior Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris who suffered third degree burns over 35 percent of his body about his treatment and recovery at the San Antonio Military Medical Center. They toured a mock deployable hospital fully equipped to save lives and learned about the Combat Casualty Care Course, an eight-day program designed to enhance the operational medical readiness skills of physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals. On the last day, some fell more than 13,000 feet out of the sky in tandem with a member of the Golden Knights U.S. Army Parachute Team.
Unlike previous educator tours conducted by the brigade, AME was designed to educate only the most influential "super" COIs -- national level educators and peers who have broad influence over other COIs -- about Army medical care and opportunities. Members of the trade media who cover healthcare-related issues and specialties were also invited with the hope they'd spread the word about Army Medicine in their respective publications and websites. And there was a high level of support and involvement from Army Medical Command, which resulted in many AMEDD general officers acting as subject matter experts on many points of the tour.
Dingle considers the event a huge success.
"On the morning the COIs were leaving, one of them shook my hand, looked me square in the eye and said, 'You will never know the impact this event has had. Your people were phenomenal. We came here as COIs, but we leave as ambassadors.'"
"It was just a terrific experience," said Dean Wilkerson, executive director of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "I was so impressed with the dedication, commitment and the zeal all your Army medical personnel have to the mission of good medicine. I'm going to be an evangelist for the Army now, I really am."
"As a sports medicine physician myself, it's very interesting to see them getting the patients back out into canoeing, biking, playing basketball and rock climbing," said Dr. Steven Kane, chairman and director orthopedic surgery residency, Atlanta Medical Center. "It's very inspiring to see patients so motivated. I think we live in a society where many people tend to not really put all their effort into getting better, and here we have individuals whose disabilities are far greater than what is for the most part seen in the civilian world, yet they're trying so hard and have every intention of getting back into full life."
Even though Dr. Howard Gamble, president of the Academy of General Dentistry has been in dentistry for more than 43 years, he was unaware of the vast opportunities the Army offers to dental and medical students.
"I think there is an untouched resource; ... if they were aware of the scholarship programs and other things that are available, many more would want to go into the military. And I will take any opportunity I can to impress upon them the opportunities available."
The brigade's new ambassadors are already getting the word out, according to Dingle.
"I've got reports some have already addressed their organizations about the opportunities in Army medicine and they're opening their doors and inviting us to speak and partner with them on events."
A Partnership for Youth Success partnership is now in the works with Samaritan Health Services in Oregon, whose company president and CEO Dr. Larry Mullins attended AME. In connection with that, Army representatives from MRB, 6th MRBn and the Seattle Medical Recruiting Company toured the hospital campus Nov. 4. Later that evening 6th MRB Commander Lt. Col. Erica Clarkson spoke at a hospital sponsored dinner to key community leaders about Army Medicine, humanitarian missions and medical research.
The newly formed Louisville, Ky., Grassroots Medical-Dental Advisory Board has invited Maj. Gen. David Rubenstein, commanding general of the Army Medical Department Center and School and chief of the Army Medical Service Corps, to speak at their next meeting in February.
And several of the media representatives are in the process of writing stories for their respective journals and websites.
Going forward, Dingle plans to hold the AME every June in conjunction with the Army Medical Symposium in San Antonio.