JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
From caring for patients at treatment facilities to treating servicemembers on the frontlines, students who got their training through the U.S. Army Medical Department Center and School, Health Readiness Center of Excellence Graduate School, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, are contributing and making an impact on military medicine.
Each year, 700 servicemembers are taking classes or doing medical training in one of 13 graduate programs offered through AMEDDC&S Graduate School, which is based at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. Clinical training is done at several treatment facilities throughout the U.S.
Students in the graduate school’s programs are commissioned officers out of college or prior active-duty members. The AMEDDC&S Graduate School students come from all services – Army, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard – and Department of Army civilians and members of Veterans Affairs.
Col. (Dr.) Scott Shaffer, AMEDDC&S Graduate School dean, said students who earn a graduate degree from AMEDDC&S will be assigned to a military unit or a treatment facility.
“We educate the next generation of clinical and administrative healthcare professionals in the federal sector,” Shaffer said.
Of the 13 graduate programs, including master’s and doctoral, that are offered through AMEDDC&S, six are at the AMEDDC&S campus and seven at military treatment facilities throughout the U.S. The graduate programs are offered through partnerships between AMEDDC&S and four institutions of higher learning: Baylor University, Northeastern University, University of Nebraska Medical Center and Fayetteville State University.
Master degree programs include health administration, business administration, nutrition, the Interservice Physician Assistant Program and social work.
Doctoral programs include physical therapy, sports medicine, anesthesia nursing, physician assistant studies, occupational therapy studies, orthopedics and manual therapy, physician assistant in emergency medicine, physician assistant in orthopedics and physician assistant in general surgery.
A doctoral program in pastoral care ministry is administered by Wesley Theological Seminary, from Washington, D.C.
Shaffer said AMEDDC&S graduate students go through two phases of training to earn their degrees. Phase 1 is 12 to 18 months of classroom instruction; Phase 2 is a 12 month clinical or healthcare administration internship at one of 80 military and civilian treatment facilities throughout the U.S., providing care for military veterans and dependents.
The graduate programs are taught by 95 faculty members at the AMEDDC&S campus and 300 instructors at the 80 different military and civilian internships sites across the nation.
Some of those students are doing their internships at Brooke Army Medical Center, the only Level 1 trauma center in Department of Defense located at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston. In addition, students in the social work program are required to do 1,000 hours of community service in San Antonio before they graduate.
“The thing that is unique about our programs is the students are working directly in supporting DOD, VA beneficiaries,” Shaffer said. “We’re fortunate in a sense that being here (at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston) our students get the opportunity to be at a Level 1 trauma center that not only serves military beneficiaries, but it’s a civilian trauma center. Our students are getting the opportunity to serve this community.”
Students in the graduate programs are simultaneously getting medical training and a military education to include leadership and deployment medical readiness skill sets, said Shaffer.
“Going through our graduate programs, you are not only getting the high level civilian education but you are also getting the specific military education and training that you need to translate your skill set to the battlefield,” he said. “The students are exposed to the unique military training and requirements in order to be effective all the way from the battlefield to military treatment facility.”
Curriculum in the AMEDDC&S graduate programs includes teaching students critical thinking and problem based learning skills that will help them in treating patients, said Shaffer.
“When people leave here, we want them to understand their profession but we also teach them how to be really good foundational critical thinkers,” he said.
Shaffer said AMEDDC&S has graduate programs that have been in existence for a long time, with the first one established in 1951 with the master’s degree in health administration from Baylor University.
Four of the AMEDDC&S Graduate School programs have been ranked in the top 15 in their professional classifications in the U.S. News and World Report rankings of university and collegiate graduate programs in the U.S. The anesthesia nursing and physical therapy programs were both ranked No. 8 in 2016, and in 2015 the health administration and business administration program was ranked No. 7 and the Interservice Physician Assistant Program, No. 11.
The curriculum for all the graduate programs is overseen by several entities, including the affiliated universities, professional accrediting organizations and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said Shaffer.
Shaffer said the graduate school has collaborative research partnerships with 40 universities and major DoD research institutions.
On average each year, AMEDDC&S faculty members and instructors produce over 100 peer review publications and compete for $7 million to $10 million worth of grant funding.
Shaffer said AMEDDC&S students and instructors are making their mark on military medicine.
“We are not only teaching and doing research, we are driving healthcare,” he said.