JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —
Thursday is the 50th anniversary of AMEDD-TV, the televised media arm of the U.S. Army Medical Department at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. For 50 years, the staff, past and present, has helped tell the AMEDD story and provided the technical expertise to document and transmit AMEDD medical history and training in multimedia formats.
In commemoration of its commitment to innovation, collaboration, and technical excellence, the following is an abbreviated history of the unit.
Television as a military medical tool
Long before television was commercially viable, members of the U.S. Army Medical Department were discussing possible military medical applications.
In 1932, seven years after the first public transmission of moving images via television, a Medical Field Service School, or MFSS, student, while calling for aeromedical support within the Army, suggested that one day television might broadcast weather conditions.
Four years later, the first mention of television as both a potential consulting and learning tool in the military medical field was made during a lecture at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, or WRAMC, then located in Washington, D.C. The lecture envisioned a future where surgeons and students would “tune in” to receive training, with the televised surgeries providing every viewer a front-row seat in the hospital amphitheater.
The most remarkable military medical tool of the century
The efficacy of television as learning tool was established in 1952 through a joint study with George Washington University in Washington, D.C., which proved television instruction was as effective as regular instruction, more effective for lower-aptitude groups, and was remembered as least as well as regular instruction.
The following year, the Army Medical Service Graduate School at WRAMC approved a television and motion picture section.
Transmissions were originally in black and white, but by June of 1954 the section transmitted its first program in color, a demonstration of heart surgery.
Within a four-year period, televised instruction expanded from not only televising surgeries, but to televised instruction and research being conducted by multiple departments. Later that year, television was lauded as the most remarkable military medical instructional tool of the century by then-Army Surgeon General Maj. Gen. George E. Armstrong.
Jumping on the television bandwagon
In May 1963, the MFSS, in conjunction with the U.S. Army Signal Corps, conducted a test demonstration of a closed circuit television system.
Television monitors were placed in six classrooms with six academic departments participating in conjunction with the Instructor Training Unit and Office of Educational Services. Brooke Army Medical Center, MFSS’ higher headquarters, jumped into all aspects of television production.
In January 1965, the BAMC Television Division was created and by the end of the year produced and circulated 207 news and feature film clips about BAMC activities.
The Educational Television Division was added to the MFSS structure Dec. 15, 1966, and Lt. Col. Stephen P. Dittman was assigned as its first chief. Its mission was to provide closed-circuit black-and-white and color television services to the MFSS, BAMC and the Office of the Surgeon General, or OTSG, for education, training and research purposes. It was immediately referred to as MFSS-TV and became the start of the AMEDD-TV we know today.
(Part 2 of the AMEDD-TV anniversary story will appear in the Dec. 16 edition of the News Leader)