NEWS | Sept. 20, 2013

San Antonio Military Health System transfers leadership

By Lindan Moya & Col. Mary Garr Southern Regional Medical Command Public Affairs and San Antonio Military Health System

Air Force Maj. Gen. Byron C. Hepburn, commander, 59th Medical Wing, relinquished the position of director of the San Antonio Military Health System to Army Maj. Gen. Jimmie O. Keenan, commanding general, Southern Regional Medical Command, during the first SAMHS transfer of authority ceremony Sept. 12 at the San Antonio Military Medical Center's auditorium.

Hepburn will now serve as the SAMHS deputy director.

To meet the changing needs of military medicine in today's environment and particularly with the budget constraints our federal government faces, Army and Air Force healthcare systems, to include SAMMC, the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center and other clinics, began to integrate two years ago under the organization known as the San Antonio Military Health System.

SAMHS officially stood up Sept. 15, 2011, to integrate Army and Air Force health care delivery in San Antonio to increase efficiencies and reduce military medical care costs and Hepburn was named as the first director. The position alternates between the Air Force and Army every two years.

The deputy director's position was previously held by Maj. Gen. M. Ted Wong, who relinquished command of SRMC and the position of SAMHS deputy director to Keenan in June.

SAMHS will receive new authorities Oct. 1 as an enhanced multiservice market based on a March Deputy Secretary of Defense memorandum mandating significant change within the military health system.

As the SAMHS director, Keenan will have authority to oversee and sustain a high-quality military health system across
San Antonio, not just within Army or Air Force facilities.

She will manage the budget allocation for the Army and Air Force military treatment facilities in San Antonio, direct teams to adopt common clinical and business functions, optimize military readiness requirements to deploy medically ready forces and direct personnel and work functions movement among San Antonio military treatment facilities to best support the patients and missions.

On Oct. 1, a Defense Health Agency will be established in Washington, D.C., to assume shared functions, services and activities of the Army, Navy and Air Force within the military health system that until now had been managed by the individual services.

Before taking command of the 59th MDW in November 2010, Hepburn was the deputy surgeon general for Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, Bolling Air Force Base, D.C., where he was responsible for directing all Air Force Medical Service operations. There, he managed the Air Force Medical Service's $5.1 billion, 43,000-person integrated health care delivery system serving 2.4 million beneficiaries worldwide.

During his two-year tenure as SAMHS director, Hepburn drove efficiencies and optimization of the direct care system and use of the purchased care network by providing improved health care services, supporting graduate medical education and training, and supporting basic/clinical biomedical research.

"Our five-year plan is to achieve $237 million in savings," Hepburn said. "In partnership with our Army colleagues, we will continue to accomplish the mission. We owe it to our patients and their families."

Prior to assuming command of SRMC, Keenan was the commanding general, U.S. Public Health Command.

Keenan is also the U.S. Army Nurse Corps chief. She will be the first Army general officer to hold the position of director of SAMHS, overseeing military health care delivery across the San Antonio metropolitan area.

"We must be integrated, we must work together. We cannot afford not to do so," Keenan said. "We have a responsibility to take care of America's sons and daughters. We are one military, one team, patients first, partners always."