By David VergunSeptember 24, 2016
WASHINGTON (Army News Service) -- "Our priority is very simple," said Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, commander of Army Medical Command and surgeon general of the Army.
"Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark A. Milley has told me and told us all what that is. It's readiness. [Milley] says, 'readiness is number one and there is no other number one.'"
West and others spoke Thursday, Sept. 22, at the Association of the United States Army's Institute of Land Warfare "hot topics" forum: "Army Medicine: Enabling Army Readiness Today and Tomorrow." During her remarks, West explained that, when it comes to Army Medicine, she sees readiness as a three-pronged endeavor.
The first prong is the "current fight." That means having a force that's medically ready to undertake any mission or go anywhere when asked. The medical force itself must be ready as well, West added.
The second prong is the "future fight." That means having the medical capability and delivery that the Army and joint force needs.
The third is the "always fight." West said that means, "always taking care of those entrusted to our care: Soldiers for Life and Family members."
Brig. Gen. Michael J. Talley, command surgeon, Army Forces Command, reminded the audience that the Army is no longer using the Army Forces Generation Model that it used during most of the years Soldiers were deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Army is now using the Sustained Readiness Model, which means all units must be ready to deploy at all times. "Non-deployables are no longer acceptable," he said, adding that, "demand is too high," referring to the fact that fewer Soldiers are being asked to do more around the world.
The Army has upgraded its e-Profile system by adding a Commander Portal that gives commanders eyes on medical readiness, he pointed out, from the unit level down to the individual Soldier level. The portal gives commanders a real-time view of each Soldier's medical and dental readiness.
The Commander Portal is boosting readiness, he said. "Populations can no longer hide two to three years" in a non-deployable status.
The medical readiness of the Guard is improving as well, according to Brig. Gen. Jill K. Faris, assistant surgeon general for Mobilization, Readiness and National Guard Affairs, Medical Services Corps. Nationally, it has climbed from 20 percent ready in 2006 to 86.5 percent in 2016, he said.
Army researchers in a number of laboratories around the U.S. are working on new technologies that can protect the Soldier of the future on the battlefield and at home.
Col. Matthew Hepburn, an infectious disease physician and program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, said his team is intent on preventing a medical surprise that could impact national security.
DARPA is working on making devices that will be useful in the future fight, he said, including one device, a Mobile Analysis Platform, which is now in active transition to the Department of Defense. The battery-operated, hand-held portable device takes blood samples at the bedside and provides immediate and accurate laboratory readouts.
The device could be transformational, he said. It could save precious time waiting for lab results to be processed.
DARPA is also developing a multiplex assay that will be able to diagnose a Soldier with an infectious disease with immediate readouts. The disease could be anything from influenza to dengue fever or Ebola. Hepburn called it a "Swiss Army knife," because the device is meant to serve so many functions. It's still in the development stage.
DARPA is also working on sensors that can be implanted in Soldiers' skin to monitor such things as oxygen uptake, he said.
Army medical researchers are coming up with new medical technology, too. For example, Jaques Reifman, a research scientist at the Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, developed a device, called APPRAISE, that can quickly and accurately detect internal bleeding, which cannot be detected by taking vital signs.
Anders Wallqvist, deputy director of the Army's Biotechnology High Performance Computing Software Applications Institute, said uncontrolled and undetected bleeding is the No. 1 killer on the battlefield, so Reifman's device could make a significant impact.
The device has received two U.S. patents and is now awaiting Food and Drug Administration clearance and a licensing agreement with a commercial partner. For his research, Reifman was awarded the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal Sept. 20.
Dr. Tracy W. Gaudet, executive director, Office of the Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, Department of Veterans Affairs, said that the traditional Department of Veterans Affairs health care system uses a "disease care" model focused on treatment of disease, illness or injury.
According to Gaudet, VA aims to become more proactive in preventing illnesses and injuries. Similar to the Army's Performance Triad approach, VA's new approach is known as a "whole health approach," she said, and it focuses on improvements in sleep, activity and nutrition.
Besides that, the whole health approach looks at techniques for reducing stress and depression and other disorders that are often precursors to illness. Gaudet noted that the Army is following the same path with its ready and resilient programs.