By Kari Hawkins, USAG RedstoneJuly 16, 2010
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Col. Mark Smith will say farewell to 12 years of service with the Army Medical Command at the Fox Army Health Center change of command ceremony on Friday.
Yet, he won't be leaving the Army's medical community.
The commander of Fox will continue his career as an Army doctor with the Army Materiel Command, where he will serve as the AMC surgeon overseeing the health and welfare of more than 67,000 civilians and 5,000 Soldiers.
The change couldn't have come at a better time for Smith. Recently, AMC commander Gen. Ann Dunwoody declared her organization's commitment to promoting employee wellness. While at Fox, Smith was instrumental in implementing the center's wellness program, which has become a model for wellness throughout the Army.
Though he will miss serving in a command position, Smith is looking forward to incorporating principles from the Fox wellness program into a worldwide wellness program for the Army's largest civilian organization.
"There is nothing better in the Army than being in command," Smith said. "But in my new position I will be the senior medical representative to the AMC commanding officer on matters of medical readiness within the command.
"I am excited because this is one of those incredible, universal alignments. General Dunwoody declared a command goal to improve the health and wellness of its employees. We have a wellness model for health care at Fox that includes Welcome to Wellness for beneficiaries as well as a plethora of wellness programs. We have already put into motion an extension of the wellness programs to provide those services to GS civilians throughout Redstone Arsenal."
The Fox farewell to Smith includes a dinner at the Officers and Civilians Club tonight beginning at 6 and a change of command ceremony on Friday at 2 p.m. in Bob Jones Auditorium. Brig. Gen. Joseph Caravalho, commander of the Southern Regional Medical Command, will preside over the ceremony.
As AMC surgeon, Smith will be introduced to new challenges and opportunities as he stands up an AMC civilian wellness program, something this 53-year-old Soldier and Iraqi war veteran is ready to take on.
Smith is no stranger to steering organizational and cultural change. When he was assigned to Fox three-and-a-half years ago, the center had just gone through 10 years of budget cuts and service restrictions that took it from being an Army hospital to being an Army clinic. Since then, Smith has reshaped Fox, overseeing growth in the center's 200-plus staff, transforming the center's service offerings and customer base, coordinating a $10 million renovation program, managing changes in policies as they relate to retiree medical services, establishing and then transitioning a wounded warrior clinic, coordinating local blood drives with the addition of an Armed Forces Blood Drive program at Redstone, expanding mental health offerings and establishing a model wellness program.
"With the assistance of a contracted professional service, we completed an 18-month strategic planning process that allows us to accomplish my primary objective as a commander to create a wellness model of health-care delivery and organizational culture," Smith said.
"We can't create wellness for patients if we're not a well organization. We've transformed the culture at Fox so that employees are well-trained, they are cared for and respected, they know the expectations, they are rewarded and they know they can count on their leadership."
Part of that strategic plan included recruiting additional staff to expand the center's offerings in areas such as mental health, occupational therapy and wellness.
"While I've been here, we've hired just over 40 exceptional professional civilian leaders in a multitude of specialties that have significantly forwarded the transformation of this organization," Smith said.
"People make an organization. And this organization has been able to recruit the best. We have become an attractive beacon for high-quality civilians who want to serve in a professional military treatment facility."
During his tenure, Fox was home to a wounded warrior clinic that assisted active duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers in the North Alabama and South Tennessee area at a time when the Army was transitioning to a community-based health care system for its wounded warriors. That clinic is still very much a part of Redstone, with its services now provided fully through the Community-Based Warrior Transition Unit.
Changes at Fox are most obvious in the center's new physical appearance. But renovations went beyond new flooring and paint colors to include changes that enhanced the center's health care offerings.
"We've reconstructed all the clinics in the modern setting of today's medical environment. We have new state-of-the-art equipment, and an environment that encourages teamwork and a higher level of professionalism," Smith said.
Expanded medical services are provided by Fox for 11,000 active duty and retirees who are enrolled for direct care at Fox. That number includes 1,200 active duty military and 3,800 family members, and 6,000 retirees between the ages of 38 and 64 along with their family members. In addition, there are 30,000 to 40,000 retirees over the age of 65 who are eligible primes and a total of 120,000 retirees within a 100-mile area, many of whom use the center's pharmacy services.
Outside of Fox, within the local health community as a whole, Smith is proud of the center's "enhanced partnerships with Crestwood Hospital, Huntsville Hospital and all the other lesser health care delivery platforms. Fox is now a respected member of an allied health care team in this community. We are the RSA medical liaison for the Huntsville community and we have an enhanced responsibility for disaster management within this community. We have significantly raised the awareness and respect of Fox and Redstone Arsenal within the entire medical community."
Smith would like to see the Army Medical Command use the Fox wellness program - one of only five among the Army's 38 medical centers -- as a center of excellence for wellness programs offered throughout the Army. And, with the surgeon general's recent declaration that all Army medical treatment facilities will have a wellness center, there is a great possibility Fox will serve as a model for other wellness programs.
"The Army is committed to civilian health and wellness as well as Soldier health and wellness," Smith said. "I will work to build a network of stakeholders and target audiences to push the message of wellness to all AMC employees. I want to visit AMC sites and assess what is going on in terms of wellness. A wellness program involves assessment and education. We've already got in place at Fox a wellness program that AMC can use worldwide."
Smith will be located at AMC headquarters, which will give him ready access to a significant population of AMC employees. He will also take the message of wellness to AMC employees located throughout the world.
"We have a wellness program already here. It's just a matter of educating and pushing the program to civilian employees," he said. "We need to use incentives to motivate people. You never get people healthy through coercion. We need to create positive incentives that inspire, move and engage employees. We need a program that nudges employees to wellness."
Although a wellness program does address the traditional issues of weight loss, smoking cessation and chronic disease control, Smith said the program also encompasses life longevity and happiness.
"Health is one part of wellness," Smith said. "But overall wellness is simply a state of mind and a sense of purpose for living. You don't have to have health to be well. For people, wellness means being creative in areas they are passionate about. And, when you have a passion for your work and in your life, you make a better teammate and better leader, you are more productive, you are a better member of the community, and you are a better husband, wife, father and mother."
With 31 years of military service, Smith is looking forward to continuing his career with AMC. His family, which includes wife Lori, and five adult children (one son is an Army captain preparing for a deployment to Afghanistan and another son is a medic in the Alabama Army National Guard), is supportive of the change.
"I really feel grateful for this incredible opportunity. I am thankful that AMC has chosen me to do this job. But I would do this job at Fox again in a heartbeat," said Smith, whose service includes 12 years as an artillery officer, seven years in medical school and training, and 12 years with the medical command.
He is confident that Fox will continue to improve its offerings and services under its new commander, Col. Elizabeth Johnson.
"The new commander will get a great organization and great people who value loyalty to an organization and a commander as well as providing great care for patients," he said.