HONOLULU -- Staff at Tripler Army Medical Center gathered for a cake cutting ceremony, July 27, as it celebrated the U.S. Army Medical Corps 237th birthday, here.

The U.S. Army Medical Department and the Medical Corps trace their origins to July 27, 1775, when the Continental Congress established the first Army Hospital to be headed by a "Director General and Chief Physician." Currently, the medical corps consists of more than 4,400 active duty physicians representing all the specialties and subspecialties of civilian medicine.

Brig. Gen. Keith Gallagher, commander, Pacific Regional Medical Command and Tripler Army Medical Center, gave opening remarks for the ceremony and gave his medical corps staff praise for their hard work and dedication.

"Our Medical Corps has been instrumental in preserving and conserving that fighting strength, and being on the battlefields from the Revolutionary War to the current conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan," Gallagher said." (The Corps) has been instrumental in working together to save lives, … instrumental in the research, …(helped) with reducing the suffering, (helped) stamp out diseases, (and worked to develop) cures.

"You are making a tremendous difference to the war fighters and I am honored to be your commander," he added.

Prior to the cake cutting, guest speaker, Col. John Smyrski, chief, Clinical Operations, PRMC, spoke to the audience about his personal experiences and the future possibilities of the Medical Corps and Army Medicine.

"We are in a unique environment, because we are changing our thought process from one of providing a health care system to a system of health," Smyrski explained. "That is really a paradigm shift for us as we look at not being reactive to prevention and keeping (our beneficiaries) healthy."

Smyrski believes that because of this shift, the officers in the Medical Corps have an opportunity to influence how Army Medicine moves forward for the next generation. He challenged his fellow Corps officers to be proactive and think outside the box as Army Medicine charts its course for how it moves forward.

"Up until 9/11, we were providing health care to our active duty and our beneficiaries, but really the focus of health care was on our family members and our retirees," Smyrski said. "Post 9/11, we had a real shift to ensuring medical readiness for our troops. On top of that we have had the opportunity, for better or worse, to deploy these last 10 years alongside our combat arms brothers and sisters and really prove our self worth."

"We should be proud of (our) heritage and the fact that we have been fighting alongside our brothers and sisters in arms for over two centuries," Smyrski said. "As I see things, it is only going to get better we are going to continue to move forward."