HACKENSACK, N.J. -- Michael Filipowicz joined his family members in a small area at Hackensack University Medical Center, waiting for news on a loved one who was undergoing surgery nearby. As he sat, scanning faces and medical personnel rushing from one requirement to the next, he began to think about how the facility caring for his family member connected with his profession.

Filipowicz, a medical service officer and deputy commander assigned to Army Reserve Medical Command's Northeast Medical Area Readiness Support Group, was considering all of the skills being used within the medical center and how they aligned with many of the skills his Soldiers needed to perform in Army Reserve medical units. With readiness on his mind and some time on his hands, an opportunity for dialogue soon presented itself.

"I was waiting for my uncle to get out of surgery, and happened to see the vice president of operations walk into his office, and I decided to follow him in and try to discuss building a relationship between his organization and the U.S. Army Reserve," said Filipowicz.

Eight months later, that dialogue would forge an important partnership.

Ihor Sawczuk, M.D., president of Hackensack University Medical Center, explained how he reacted when Jason Kreitner, vice president of operations, and Filipowicz presented the concept to him.

"When they described the intent behind developing such a program, a light bulb went off. It was crystal clear that to help our Soldiers refine and hone their skills in a medical center... the ones that can work alongside our laboratory technicians, our radiology technicians, our emergency department, in the [operating room], etc... and be observers, and be trained, and be kept up on the best of medical knowledge at this point without a cost to the U.S. government? It was just the right thing to do," Sawczuk said.

On June 5, 2017, the U.S Army Reserve and Hackensack University Medical Center announced the formation of Operation Hackensack S.M.A.R.T. (Strategic Medical Asset Readiness Training), an innovative, first-of-its-kind partnership which focuses on high-quality, individualized specialty medical training for service members to improve their knowledge, skillsets and increase soldier readiness.

Soldiers will partner with their civilian counterparts at Hackensack University Medical Center for 14 days of immersion training utilizing cutting-edge technology, at no additional cost to the government. What makes this program even more unique for the Army Reserve is that the training targets specialized, high demand clinical occupational specialties focused predominantly on the enlisted Soldier, like laboratory specialists, radiology specialists and operating room technicians. These Soldiers will shadow their civilian counterparts and rotate through the hospital continuum, gaining exposure to the Emergency Department, Operating Rooms, Inpatient and Outpatient areas as well as Clinical Laboratories. Previous military partnerships with the medical community have focused on team training, while this training focuses on individual clinical skills.

The training will also provide critical knowledge sharing between military and civilian medical professionals about best practices, techniques and procedures to ensure military service members are trained to use the most current technology in today's rapidly changing health care landscape.

"Many of our Army Reserve enlisted medical personnel do not work in the medical field in their civilian capacity. Thanks to Hackensack Meridian Health's diverse patient population, unparalleled laboratory facilities and state-of-the-art Diagnostic Imaging Technology, Soldiers will gain real-time access to cutting-edge technology and training. Our Soldiers will greatly benefit from this unique experience and unrivaled expertise in order to advance their medical knowledge, successfully meeting our Army Reserve's demand for a constant state of readiness," said Maj. Gen. Mary E. Link, commanding general for Army Reserve Medical Command.

The founding class of Operation Hackensack S.M.A.R.T. began its first rotation on June 5, 2017, with radiologic and laboratory medical technologists. Twelve U.S. Army Reserve Soldiers from across the country and two active duty Air Force personnel from the 87th Medical Group stationed at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst are part of this inaugural rotation.

"We are honored and privileged to support our military by providing high-quality, one-on-one medical training to our Soldiers, ensuring they have the critical skillsets they need to maintain readiness. We look forward to welcoming Soldiers from across the country to Hackensack University Medical Center for this extraordinary program," said Sawczuk.

Operation Hackensack S.M.A.R.T. will support Army Reserve Medical Command, the 807th Medical Command (Deployment Support) and the 3rd Medical Command (Deployment Support), which together contribute approximately 67 percent of the medical capabilities to the Army for global requirements.

In addition to the announcement of Operation Hackensack S.M.A.R.T., Dr. Sawczuk signed a statement of support on behalf of Hackensack University Medical Center with the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR), an office within the Department of Defense that develops and maintains employer support for Guard and Reserve services.

"We are proud to sign this Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve, continuing Hackensack University Medical Center's longstanding commitment to support our U.S. service members and veterans," Sawczuk added.