During his first overseas tour, the Honorable Dr. Lester Martinez-Lopez, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs (ASD for Health Affairs), visited Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC), as part of a larger visit to Europe, July 10, 2023.
The visit provided Martinez-Lopez a chance to visit with leaders from TRICARE Area Office Eurasia-Africa, Medical Readiness Command, Europe, Defense Health Agency Region-Europe, LRMC, and staff at LRMC, the only forward-stationed medical center in the U.S. Department of Defense. Martinez-Lopez will also meet with medical leaders at various combatant commands in Europe, while also meeting and strengthening relationships with German Armed Forces (Bundeswehr) leaders, including the Bundeswehr’s top medical officer.
“The focus for military health is readiness, ensuring our Service Members are medically fit to carry out their missions,” said Martinez-Lopez. “(LRMC) is one of our premier medical facilities in the Department of Defense where it embodies (the U.S. Department of Defense) military health readiness mission.”
During the visit, Martinez-Lopez met with medical professionals from LRMC’s Medical / Surgical Ward; Labor, Delivery, Recovery, Postpartum Ward; Operating Rooms; Post-Anesthesia Care Unit; Intensive Care Unit; Emergency Department and concluded his tour by meeting with Europe military medicine leaders.
Martinez-Lopez mentioned the importance of access to care, its effect on readiness and efforts to combat short staffing. “Access is critical, we are working to enhance and revise policies and processes that ensure we have the right numbers and skill sets of medical professionals at our facilities,” said Martinez-Lopez. “This is not just a military health challenge; it is one facing all health systems. We hear you and we’re in this together to find the best solutions to meet our readiness mission.”
Nominated by President Joe Biden in 2022, Martinez-Lopez was confirmed for the position of ASD for Health Affairs, on Feb. 16, 2023. He is a retired U.S. Army major general and a family medicine physician, who served in leadership positions in the private health care sector after concluding his U.S. Army career.
“I bring not only decades of experience in uniform to my new role as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, but a clear set of priorities: readiness, access to care, mental health, and addressing provider shortages,” said Martinez-Lopez. “In short, my goals are to advance readiness through enhanced, comprehensive clinical care; strengthen our healthcare workforces to meet the military’s medical needs, and reattract beneficiaries to the Military Health System by improving the patient experience and access to care.”
LRMC is the largest U.S. hospital outside the United States where it serves as the sole military medical center for more than 205,000 beneficiaries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The jointly staffed, Army-commanded 100-bed Medical Center is strategically located near Ramstein Air Base, providing 52 medical specialties and over 46,000 outpatient visits per month. LRMC is the only American College of Surgeons verified Level II Trauma Center outside the United States and the evacuation and treatment center for all injured U.S. Service Members and civilians, as well as members of 56 Coalition Forces serving across four combatant commands and three continents.