FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- It's a winning combination for training and readiness when Soldiers at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital complete their periodic health assessment. In addition to helping Soldiers maintain individual medical readiness the PHA serves as a training opportunity for Army physician assistant students who will manage PHA programs for line units upon graduation.

Blanchfield is home to the Sean P. Grimes Physician Assistant Training Center. It is one of 15 sites Army-wide where Soldiers from the Interservice Physician Assistant Program can go to complete the Phase II, hands-on portion of their medical training after completing the classroom portion at the Academy of Health Sciences, Army Medical Department Center and School on Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. The physician assistant students spend 13 months at Blanchfield, where they rotate through the various medical sections of the hospital in order to gain clinical knowledge and experience.

Once a quarter, under the supervision of their program director, the physician assistant students conduct a PHA rodeo for all Soldiers assigned to the hospital requiring a PHA. The PHA is an annual requirement for all Soldiers and is used by the Army to evaluate the individual medical readiness of its Soldiers. When the physician assistant students graduate, they will perform and supervise troop medical care at the unit and division level and provide their commanders professional advice on medically-related matters to unit readiness and mission. The program director said the training now will enable their success in the future.

"We have been offering the PHAs for about a year now. We offer this on a quarterly basis, as our training schedule allows," said Maj. Jill Spackman, a physician assistant and program director of the hospital's IPAP Phase II site. "We started doing this so Army physician assistant students could learn how to do some of the administrative tasks that Army physician assistants have to do, not just the clinical ones."

The students set up stations for the required sections of the PHA, which includes vital statistics, vision screening, reviewing current medical conditions, labs, immunizations, behavioral health screening and a one-on-one consultation with a provider to discuss any medical concerns. The information is then documented in the Army's Medical Protection System, which tracks individual and unit medical readiness and deployability data for all Active and Reserve components of the Army. For some physician assistant students, the PHA rodeo is their first introduction to MEDPROS.

"I am very thankful to have the opportunity to do PHAs during Phase II of IPAP. We spend much of our time during Phase II learning how to practice medicine in general, so it is always helpful to get hands on experience with Army Medicine protocols," said Officer Candidate Samantha Good, an IPAP Phase II student. Good served as a radiology specialist prior to her selection to the physician assistant program and had never administered a PHA. "It is important to know how to perform such tasks before we get to our units so we can hit the ground running, completing them quickly and efficiently for our Soldiers."

IPAP is located at the Academy of Health Sciences, Army Medical Department Center and School on Fort Sam Houston, San Antonio, Texas. The program mission is to educate and train physician assistants for the uniformed services. Applicants are both non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers in the uniformed services.

Soldiers interested in applying for IPAP must have completed a minimum of 60 semester hours of college courses with an emphasis in science course work, Scholastic Aptitude Test, Basic Life Support (with current card) and a service unique applicant package. Graduates will earn a master's degree and receive a commission as a first lieutenant in the Army Medical Specialist Corps.

To learn more about IPAP, visit http://www.cs.amedd.army.mil/ipap/