By Ms. Suzanne Ovel (Regional Health Command Pacific)December 7, 2018
MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Tacoma, Wash. -- The founding and current staff alike of the California Medical Detachment celebrated the 25th anniversary of the unit at Presidio of Monterey on Dec 3.
More than 7500 multiservice patients and their families, and international military students, receive primary care and other health services from CAL MED in clinics including the Major General Gourley VA-DoD Outpatient Clinic.
The roots of the detachment tendril back to the fall of the Berlin Wall, which led the Department of Defense to release the Base Realignment and Closure Commission list in 1991. Silas B. Hays Army Community Hospital closed, and the 7th Infantry Division moved to now-Joint Base Lewis-McChord, but the remaining military missions near Monterey, Calif., still needed medical support. In 1993, CAL MED stood up to care for the about 5000 remaining service members who primarily attended the nearby Defense Language Institute and the Naval Postgraduate School.
Lt. Col. Brian Lanier, the CAL MED commander, spoke on all that's changed since the unit's clinic first opened its doors.
"I've been struck with how Army Medicine has changed in the past 25 years, and certainly within my own career. We've gone through two iterations of electronic health records, and we're about ready to go through another change in September of next year to MHS GENESIS," Lanier said.
MHS GENESIS is the Department of Defense's new unified electronic health record; CAL MED will be only the second Army facility, after Madigan Army Medical Center, to adopt it.
"This installation has been chosen; it is the first Army ambulatory clinic to go through MHS GENESIS. It is the tip of the spear for 650 other institutions across (the continental U.S.) and (overseas) that will have this health record," said Col. Thomas Bundt, the Madigan commander.
Lanier noted other military medicine changes that CAL MED took part in over the years, to include the advent of patient-centered medical homes, the creation of secure messaging, and the progress toward virtual health. Today, the 130 healthcare and support staff of CAL MED operate out of eight different buildings, and support students, cadre and family members from the Defense Language Institute, Naval Post Graduate School, Naval Support Activity Monterey, the Coast Guard Detachment of Monterey, Naval Fleet Numerical Meteorological and Oceanography Center, and three additional Army locations in central California.
The anniversary event included guest speakers especially invited from the detachment's original command team.
"Of all the Army organizations that I've had the privilege to command or be a part of throughout my entire military career, the California Medical Detachment remains closest to my heart," said Col. (Ret.) Dr. Douglas Phillip. "That's because back in 1993, we were a new organization and there's no playbook for that … Probably the rarest privilege to command is to command a new organization without a playbook and from there you feel a sense of freedom to be bold as you lead an organization."
The team of enterprising leaders 25 years ago also took on new challenges of the time, to include the transition to TRICARE.
"Optimism brings opportunity; we became the first site to test (TRICARE)," said Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Garfield Skyers.
Some of the original team members are in fact still serving as CAL MED staff, and the ceremony took time to honor their longevity in service and commitment. These team members include Margaret Johnson, Rick Michael, and Perla Pangdan.
Lanier praised staff old and new for their dedication in providing compassionate care to patients.
"Thank you to the Soldiers and the staff of the detachment who work so hard to provide the best healthcare to our beneficiaries day in and day out," he said.