FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Located deep within the hospital on the zero level of the A building near the medical library, the Physician Assistant Training Center honors the memory of Capt. Sean P. Grimes, who served as a physician assistant deployed to Iraq with the 2nd Infantry Division.
On March 4, 2005, Grimes and three members of his unit; Sgt. 1st Class Donald W. Eacho, Cpl. Stephen M. McGowan, and Spc. Wade Michael Twyman, were killed when an improvised explosive device exploded near their vehicle in Ar Ramadi, Iraq.
Known for his dedication and commitment caring for Soldiers as a physician assistant in the Army’s Medical Specialist Corps, the Interservice Physician Assistant Phase II training site at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital on Fort Campbell, Kentucky was formally named in his memory in 2011.
Physician assistants serve as the primary medical provider to Soldiers in battalion and division level units and are responsible for unit medical readiness and training medics. Through the Interservice Physician Assistant Program (IPAP), service members may go back to school to receive the formal education and training required to become a licensed physician assistant. The two phase program includes 16 months of basic medical sciences and clinical medicine courses at the Army Medical Department Center and School in San Antonio, Texas, followed by 13 months of clinical rotations at one of 15 Army medical treatment facilities like Blanchfield. It was here at Blanchfield that Capt. Grimes would complete his rotations to master his craft.
He first joined the Army Reserve after high school and served as a medic while attending college. He graduated Michigan State in 1997 and was commissioned in the Army Nurse Corps. After serving as a critical care nurse and as an emergency room nurse in Germany, he deployed to Kosovo where he spent six months serving as an assistant head nurse.
Those who knew him said his devotion to caring for Soldiers inspired him to apply and be accepted into IPAP. He began is classroom studies in 2001 and was assigned to Fort Campbell for Phase II. Physician assistant candidates rotate through about 20 primary care settings and specialty services, like dermatology, internal medicine, and behavioral health during their clinical training at Blanchfield in order to gain knowledge and experience before graduating and getting assigned to a unit.
Capt. Grimes completed his rotation at Blanchfield in May 2003 and served as a physician assistant and as Division Artillery Surgeon for the 6th Battalion, 37th Field Artillery in the Republic of Korea. When 1st Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division was ordered to deploy into combat as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Captain Grimes volunteered to deploy with the unit to serve as the battalion’s physician assistant.
In Iraq, Grimes volunteered for more than 80 patrols and raids and treated at least 25 Soldiers who were wounded in combat. On March 4, 2005 while on patrol in Iraq, he became the first military physician assistant to be killed in action.
This year, during the annual observance of Physician Assistant Week, Oct. 6 to 12, recognizing the 53rd Anniversary of the profession, Blanchfield physician assistant Maj. Scott Jolman wanted to share Grimes’ story.
“We have about 14 physician assistant students at any given time going through the Phase II training pipeline and PA’s all over the world are making big contributions every day,” said Jolman, who also serves as Blanchfield’s IPAP Phase II site director, responsible for managing physician assistant candidates completing their rotations at Blanchfield.. “I would like to say thank you for everything that they are doing and I want to specifically recognize Captain Sean Grimes. His contributions to the PA profession remain to be the epitome of a PA within the PA profession throughout all branches of the United States Military.”
In order to further his legacy of service, his parents Donald and Mary Grimes, his brother Don Grimes and his sister Mary T. Grimes decided to honor his memory by helping students who follow in his footsteps. His family used his Service Member's Group Life Insurance death benefit to establish scholarships for other Soldiers continuing in the fields of nursing and physician assistants. His family also purchased and donated furniture in the long-awaited PA training classroom at Blanchfield.
The classroom, which offers video teleconferencing capabilities, computer workstations, an administrative room and a student break room, continues to be used to teach new generations of Army physician assistant students who complete their clinical training at Fort Campbell.