By Amy Guckeen-Tolson, USAG Redstone August 25, 2014
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Col. David Carpenter wants to serve more Soldiers and their families.
"I want to invite military families, and retirees to 'come home' to military health care and experience the Patient Centered Medical Home," said Carpenter, commander of Fox Army Health Center.
"PCMH is the result of the transformation of the Army's health care to a system whose total focus is on the needs and experiences of the patient. I define Soldiers broadly -- service members, retired service members, their families and all those eligible beneficiaries who serve in and around the community working tirelessly on systems that improve the safety and effectiveness of our forces. I want to invite them back to Army medicine and PCMH. With patient centered, and I emphasize -- patient centered -- medical home, I think we have a lot to offer."
Carpenter has spent the past month or so discovering just how much Fox has to offer, after assuming command of the medical treatment facility July 10. Prior to joining Team Redstone, he served as the deputy G3, 18th Medical Command, at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. One of his top priorities as commander is bringing eligible beneficiaries back to Fox, thereby dispelling the memories of Army medicine of yesteryear and putting patients on a path to wellness, where the focus is on their care.
"I look back at my personal experience with Army medicine, and am pleased to see how we have transformed and put the needs of the patient, in a holistic view, at the forefront of every patient encounter while establishing and maintaining an enduring relationship. We're going to try to do everything we can for you with each visit," Carpenter said.
That includes immunizations, annual physicals, and even looking ahead and anticipating what the patient will need in the future. It's a model that fits in well with Carpenter's approach to health care.
"The focus has always been on treating the patient, but it used to be after an acute event occurs, fix it and get them back in the fight," Carpenter said. "The shift now is to focus on wellness, build that resiliency, that resistance to become injured or ill, and you've never lost the fighting strength."
Carpenter's guidance to his staff: "If you're working toward the best interest, the centered interest of the patient, you're working in the right direction."
Carpenter's main priority as commander is implementing the key strategies and focuses within the Army Medicine 2020 Campaign Plan, which aims to "improve readiness, save lives and advance health in support of the Total Force." Patient Centered Medical Home is part of that plan.
Command priorities include the safety of patients and the workforce, training and communication. In the immediate future, Carpenter plans to continue his assessment of the facility, to avoid pushing "the cart before the horse." Even after leaving paradise -- Hawaii -- Carpenter's initial reaction is "great facility, great people."
Originally from northern Illinois, the journey to commanding Fox Army Health Center has been a winding one. Influential mentors throughout his career pointed Carpenter in the direction of the Army, where he spent nearly his whole career in operational units. Enlisting in September 1987 and commissioned in May 1992, Carpenter's first few assignments were with conventional units, but he has spent most of his career in various special operations assignments. His career includes 11 combat deployments, including time in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as two operational deployments and one unaccompanied tour to Korea.
"It's been a lot of time away, but the things I've got to do in those periods you just can't find anywhere else," said Carpenter, who has been married to his wife Lisa for nearly 20 years. They have one daughter, Madeline, a seventh-grader.
Commanding Fox is Carpenter's first MEDCOM assignment, one he looks forward to.
"Wellness and health are infectious," Carpenter said. "If you're around healthy people, you're more likely to be healthy yourself. In some of our programs, particularly in our wellness clinic, we don't ask for the beneficiary card before you sit through a class, we're interested in getting that education out as far as we can reach. The more people we can influence, the better for us and the community."