Symposium highlights 'purple medicine'
By Tech. Sgt. Mark Wyatt, 157th Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published February 18, 2014
PEASE AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.H. -- More than 100 New Hampshire National Guard senior leaders and medical professionals from the Army and Air National Guard came together Feb. 9 to continue to build a shared understanding for enhanced medical training, education and missions in the future.
Air Force Lt. Col. Stephanie Riley, the states Joint Medical Operations director, has seen in the past opportunities to participate in joint deployments or joint humanitarian missions - each of which she feels would have been invaluable training that would have resulted in greater collaboration.
"I'm always thinking joint and thought it would be great to bring the National Guard medical community together to help educate each other and provide more purple opportunities," said Riley. "Or it can be as simple as helping each other out during drill weekends with PHAs [Patient Health Assessment] or other medical requirements as budgets shrink and greater use of resources are necessary to sustain."
A point that the New Hampshire Adjutant General Maj. Gen. William N. Reddel III highlighted during his opening remarks to the first ever N.H. Joint Medical Symposium.
"Overall funding is shrinking," said Reddel. "We have to put business practices in place in order to be successful; what's the most effective and efficient way that we can get the job done - because you each bring tremendous civilian skills and experience to this job."
Many medical units within the NHNG, in both the Army and Air, bring a plethora of civilian medical professionals with various skills and certifications that are unique resources to the organization.
Resources that senior leaders believe could result in savings by teaching courses internally eliminating costs for external courses as well as travel expenses.
Former 157th Medical Group commander, Brig. Gen. Gretchen Dunkelberger, now the ANG Assistant to the Air Force Surgeon General, spoke to attendees about military medicine.
"The weapon systems we work on are humans and are the same whether they are wearing a green uniform or a blue uniform," Dunkelberger said.
The Joint Deputy Surgeon Air Force Col. Brett Wyrick discussed medical readiness from a joint perspective and the need to implement a better system.
"When I was in Iraq and I operated on soldiers, airmen or Marines, once you get through the skin they all pretty much looked the same -- they are all incredibly young and incredibly brave," said Wyrick. "We owe it to them to come up with a better system and to come up with the best medical care around."
Dunkelberger said that better medical care starts with the creation of the Defense Health Agency in October 2013.
"As a result of a Deputy Secretary of Defense memorandum, Implementation of Military Health System Governance Reform, DHA was established in 2013," she said. "The Defense Health Agency is an effort to achieve greater integration of our direct and purchased health care delivery systems so that we accomplish the department's quadruple aim: achieve medical readiness, improve the health of our people, enhance the experience of care, and lower our healthcare costs."
Other sessions through the symposium included presentations by Army and Air National Guard medical commanders who spoke about their respective organizations as well as manpower and mission sets. The symposium closed with presentations from some of the civilian state partners.
"I hope that people start thinking about creative ways that the N.H. National Guard can work together if they are planning ventures -- if they can't fill all their slots with Air or Army, they think of the other services to help bridge that gap," said Riley. "We should approach medical issues jointly; hopefully this is the beginning of that process."