By Mr. Jeffrey M Soares (Army Medicine)September 25, 2012
The Fort Detrick, Md., chapter of the Silver Caduceus Society gathered for its quarterly meeting during a luncheon featuring the Honorable Jonathan Woodson, M.D., assistant secretary of defense for Health Affairs, Sept. 14. In a speech regarding the Defense Health Program and its ties to medical research and acquisition, Woodson offered insight concerning the state of military medicine and the outlook for the future.
"I want to congratulate you on what is really an important mission, which is that of guiding people through their careers as military medical personnel," said Woodson. "The American public will no longer tolerate just the standard medical care. They want us to push the envelope and create advances that move the ball faster and faster."
As home to the National Interagency Biodefense Campus, Fort Detrick maintains numerous laboratories and scientific facilities on its grounds, including the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases and the Naval Medical Research Center -- Biodefense Research Directorate. In light of this, the importance of informed medical research personnel on post remains paramount, and the SCS works to help its members stay up-to-date with advancements in the field.
"One of the challenges nowadays is information management," said Woodson. "The problem we have often as leaders and as organizations is that we're not always good at taking information and turning it into usable knowledge."
Woodson believes that collaboration among the Services will help foster this "usable knowledge," and he sees the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force working closely together in the future.
"We must try to break out of those boxes of bureaucratic conventions that limit what we can do," he said. "In the future, there will be a greater overlap between agencies."
And while collaboration is critical in Woodson's plan, leadership remains equally important. He believes everyone has the potential to be a leader, regardless of their position in the workplace hierarchy. In his view, leaders must learn how to "lead up, down, and sideways" across domains in order to motivate people to work towards common goals.
"You have to be a problem-solver first, and you have to learn how to form teams of necessity," said Woodson. "True solutions to problems are found when you bring people together who don't think alike. If you bring together a group of people who think as you do, you will probably end up with an insufficient solution, or something that already exists."
After a question and answer session following his speech, Woodson left the audience with words of advice regarding job security in the future, and "change" was a key element in his recommendation.
"The failure to change will ensure your obsolescence," he said. "You have to learn how to skate where the puck will be, rather than where the puck has been. You're going to have to look for opportunities and novel experiences that will create new skills in you."
Woodson's words to the Society members appeared to be well received, as the audience applauded loudly during his exit from the podium.
Established in September 1967 as a forum for Medical Service Corps officers to conduct professional and personal development, the Silver Caduceus Society remains an important part of the evolving history of the MSC for providing education regarding advancements in technical, administrative and scientific arenas. Along with career development, a primary objective of the SCS is to encourage social interaction between MSC officers and to provide mentoring opportunities for junior officers. The Society hopes to maintain an SCS chapter at each military installation where MSC officers serve. The Fort Detrick SCS chapter was reorganized this year, with Lt. Col. David Hammer assuming the role of chapter president.
"We are very happy to have such a great turn-out for this event," said Hammer. "The recent reforming of the SCS has been a great experience for me and one that allows more senior officers to provide mentorship while staying connected to those officers in the early stages of their careers. Our goal is to continue to provide quarterly gatherings that are relevant for our members continued growth as leaders within our Army Medical Department."