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NEWS | Oct. 21, 2020

MEDCoE hosts Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs

By Tish Williamson U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Public Affairs

During his first visit to San Antonio, the Hon. Thomas McCaffery, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs visited the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence as part of a larger visit to Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston from Oct. 19-21.

The purpose of the visit was to provide the ASD opportunities to meet key leaders and learn more about the many military medicine organizations who serve together on the base.  His stops also included Brooke Army Medical Center, the Medical Education and Training Campus, and the Naval Medical Forces Support Command.

Each command was encouraged to highlight the unique capabilities that support military medical training or healthcare delivery.  McCaffery, as the health advisor to the Secretary of Defense, was also interested in seeing how commands are operating in the COVID-19 environment.

Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, MEDCoE commanding general, led the tour of the Combat Paramedic simulation scenario training, an overview of the Army’s Flight Paramedic Program and hosted an office call with the assistant secretary.

The discussion touched on the new Combat Paramedic Program, or CPP, a 30-week pilot program that began in January 2020 and graduated its first class in August, and how the Combat Medic training program adapted to thrive despite the added challenges of COVID-19.

The Combat Medical Specialist Training Program, or CMSTP, rapidly transformed training to a blended learning environment due to COVID-19. 

A true collaboration, the team is made up of both military and civilian personnel. Military cadre and students are assigned to the MEDCoE and the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, while civilian personnel are assigned to the METC and are Defense Health Agency, or DHA, employees.

In addition to changing their delivery methods, the CMSTP team focused on improving attrition rates and developed a new refresher course for students finding the National Registry of Emergency Medicine Technicians, or NREMT, content difficult to master. The refresher course decreased the course Army Combat Medic attrition rate by over 90 percent.  

This change saved tens of thousands of dollars by graduating Soldiers into the operational force who would have otherwise been reclassified or become a loss to the Army.

During the pandemic, MEDCoE has graduated nearly 13 thousand students in over 6 hundred courses.  They safely moved nearly 7,000 Advanced Individual Training, or AIT Soldiers of varying medical military occupational specialties in and out of the training pipeline at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston without a single instance of sending a COVID-19 positive student to a follow-on unit of assignment.

In addition to MEDCoE, BAMC, METC and NMFSC, the ASD visited several other medical organizations, to include the 59th Training Group and medical AIT students at JBSA-Lackland.  He also met with the U.S. Army North Commander and the commander of the U.S. Army Installation Management Command on the first day of his three-day visit.