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1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Air Force Lt. Col. Erik Weitzel is presented the Gold Headed Cane by retired Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, BAMC Commander Col. Jeffrey Johnson, Col. Rachel Lefebvre, and Dr. Woodson "Scott" Jones, dean, San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Con... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas -- The 42nd Army surgeon general had high praise for the nearly 250 medical and allied health graduates being honored at the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium awards and graduation ceremony June 10 in downtown San Antonio.

"I extend to you my sincere and deepest thanks to all of our graduates for your service and commitment to defend the nation and congratulations on your accomplishments," retired Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker told a packed audience in the Lila Cockrell Theatre. "I cannot be but excited for you as you become leaders in the finest and most highly respected system of health and healthcare system in America and the world."

SAUSHEC is the organization responsible for military graduate medical and allied health education in San Antonio. It comprises training sites at Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, and maintains a close partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. The consortium was created to promote teaching, patient care, research and military readiness.

The ceremony marked the culmination of years of postgraduate training for Air Force, Army, Navy and civilian practitioners. This year, along with Schoomaker, Dr. Woodson "Scott" Jones, dean of SAUSHEC, Col. Jeffrey Johnson, BAMC commander, and Air Force Col. Rachel Lefebvre, 59th Medical Wing vice commander, were on hand to present certificates to the 246 graduates: 196 physicians and 50 graduate allied health professionals.

The former surgeon general lauded the education programs that foster excellence in military medicine.

"I am absolutely convinced that we would not still be defending the nation through repeated deployments while advancing care for casualties from the point of injury or illness on an austere battlefield or humanitarian crisis to our medical centers and community hospitals back home were it not for our robust graduate health and allied health education programs," Schoomaker said. "These programs attract the very best young doctors, nurses, dentists, administrators, chaplains … and they retain our best mid-career faculty."

The 41-year Army officer also praised the "remarkable degree of cooperation and coordination of care across the continuum of care from active duty into veteran status."

"You begin the next phase of your military medical careers in a Military Health System so far beyond what I experienced when I came into this elite team that I am amazed and humbled," he said. "Above all else in the years ahead, know that you are caring for a remarkable military family who at their core shares your values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage."

During the awards ceremony, Air Force Lt. Col. Erik Weitzel, otolaryngology, was named the recipient of the Gold Headed Cane. This prestigious award recognizes excellence in patient care, teaching, clinical research and operational medicine.

The following individuals also were honored with research and merit awards:

-- Animal/Basic Science Research: Air Force Maj. Adam Willis, neurology;

-- Fellow Clinical Research: Maj. Aaron R. Farmer, infectious disease;

-- Resident Primary Care Research: Air Force Capt. Antonia Helbling, emergency medicine;

-- Resident Surgical Research: Maj. Katherine M. Bedigrew, orthopaedics;

-- Performance Improvement Project: Air Force Capt. John C. Hunninghake, internal medicine;

-- Major John Gillespie Award (Outstanding Intern): Air Force Capt. Andrew T. Patterson, transitional year;

-- Major David S. Berry Award (Outstanding Resident): Air Force Maj. Brit J. Long, emergency medicine;

-- Col. Donald M. Null Award (Outstanding Fellow): Maj. Ian M. Ward, rheumatology;

-- Graduate Allied Health Education Award (Outstanding Educator): Dr. Gail Deyle, manual physical therapy;

-- Lt. Gen. PK Carlton Award (Outstanding Faculty): Air Force Maj. Benjamin D. Morrow, nephrology;

-- Outstanding Program Coordinator Award: Nancy Montgomery, neurology; and

-- COL John D. Roscelli Award (Outstanding Program Director): Dr. Jay Higgs, rheumatology.