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MEDAUSA: Being an Army Doctor instead of a Doctor in the Army

At the 2018 Association of the United States Army Medical Symposium (MEDAUSA) on June 26-27, in San Antonio, Texas, Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, U.S. Army Surgeon General and commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command, discusses a photo of a soldier being medically evacuated and holding the hand of another injured Soldier for comfort. “It grabbed me, it shows a soldier getting comfort from his fellow wounded soldier.” said West. This photo is the clearest way for West to explain what Army Medicine does for the Army and emphasizes that we are part of the operation and not just support. (DoD Photo by Wesley Elliott, MEDCOM/OTSG Directorate of Public Affairs, U.S. Army/Released.)

Story by Wesley Elliott
U.S. Army Medical Command

Joint Base San Antonio, Texas – The 2018 Association of the United States Army Medical Symposium (MEDAUSA) was held on June 26-27, in San Antonio, Texas, to educate government, academic, civic, and veteran-advocates on Army Medicine initiatives, issues, and future plans in today’s operating environment. The event is one of two key annual AUSA sponsored communication events for Army Medicine.

Lt. Gen. Nadja Y. West, U.S. Army Surgeon General and commanding general, U.S. Army Medical Command said, “It is really important as our Army moves forward in the future to remember as our Army goes, so does Army Medicine.”

“It’s important for all our leaders to get together and focus on how we can ensure we change, morph, and adapt so we can be the best capability for the Army,” said West.

President and CEO of the Association of the United States Army, Gen. (Ret) Carter F. Ham said, “The way we look at a soldier today is far different than how we thought about soldiers when I enlisted in 1973. The soldier is truly the center piece of all that the Army does, and in a higher-tempo environment, maximizing the potential of each and every Soldier becomes increasingly important.”

During her opening remarks, West presented a single slide of a soldier being medically evacuated and holding the hand of another injured soldier for comfort.

West then stated, “We have been in a state of change since 1775 but one thing that hasn’t changed is what we [do]; that is taking care of our wounded soldiers. The uniforms may change, the platforms on which our soldiers are transported to lifesaving care may change, but our core mission and our core values have never changed.”

The photo was given to West by an officer at the Centers for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills (CSTARS) in Cincinnati, Ohio, and when presented with the photo, she describes breaking down into tears.

“It grabbed me, it shows a soldier getting comfort from his fellow wounded soldier. You can’t see the other soldier, just the hand, clasped, and providing support to his fellow comrade who is injured. They are on a transport that is getting them back to definitive care and he will make it,” said West.

This photo is the clearest way for West to explain what Army Medicine does for the Army and emphasizes that we are part of the operation and not just support. Army Medicine must continue to be a part of Army culture to remain adaptable and agile. Army Medicine personnel must understand where they fit in the big picture to be an effective part of the Army.

“We have to be proficient in our skills, that is what we are asked to be as medical professionals and we have to be proficient in our soldiering or leadership skills. Some of you have heard me use doctors as an example, but it can be any professional, I ask the question are you a doctor in the Army or an Army doctor? Even though the words sound similar there is a world of difference,” said West.

West encouraged everyone in Army Medicine to challenge the status quo and ensure that they are making the right changes for the Army and the soldiers who depend on them.

Regarding the Army’s recently released mission and vision, “Look at what our Army is asked to do on behalf of our nation, what does that mean for Army Medicine? We are going to go right along with the Army.”

“Joint, multi-domain, high-intensity, irregular–we are entering a new era and this vision will see us through a transformation unlike any we have seen in the Army since the development of the Air-land Doctrine in 1986,” said West.

West explained that in the next few years, the Army will face changes in manning, training, equipping, priorities, and organizational structures and Army Medicine will be a part of the transition.

In the coming months detailed plans will continue to evolve and this can create uncertainty about the future for organizations and the individuals impacted by the change but West is focused on Army Medicine’s continuing mission–support to the Army and joint force.

“[Army Medicine] is always there, anytime, anywhere, period. We have an absolutely no-fail mission,” said West.

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