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Training future doctors to bring Soldiers home

Madigan Army Medical Center Commander

Published: 02:14PM May 31st, 2018
121817-A-ZN465-0008

Madigan Army Medical Center

Col. Michael Place, left, Madigan Army Medical Center commander, observes his staff’s response in the emergency department following an Amtrak train derailment near DuPont Dec. 18.

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We take our mission of training, not just doctors but Army doctors, to heart at Madigan, knowing that when our doctors are deployed, they need to provide excellent care without the benefit of a full-sized military treatment facility behind them.

As shots rang out and the casualty struggled to breathe, the team leader barked, “We gotta move.” Madigan Army Medical Center’s doctors were treating injured Soldiers on the ground in a hostile urban area before providing care in medevacs and Stryker ambulances.

Although the training scenario at a range on Joint Base Lewis-McChord in April simulated what our doctors can expect downrange, the scenarios they encountered can and do occur in real operations, which is exactly why we ran the Capstone field exercise for our residents.

While many may already know that we train young doctors at Madigan in a wide spectrum of residency programs, they may not realize the additional requirements of training Army doctors. There’s a difference — all doctors need to promote health and save lives, of course.

Army doctors need do this downrange with oftentimes less-than-optimal (or downright hostile and austere) environments, where they can truly be the difference between a wounded service member making it home alive or not.

We take our mission of training, not just doctors but Army doctors, to heart at Madigan, knowing that when our doctors are deployed, they need to provide excellent care without the benefit of a full-sized military treatment facility behind them.

Downrange, they need to rely even more on their own exceptional skills and knowledge to independently provide high-quality care to deployed service members. More than that, our service members who are deployed to conflicts around the world deserve the very best care that can be provided, and at Madigan it’s our pledge to provide exactly that.

We’re proud to boast that across the hospital, our residents are outscoring their peers in their annual medical board exams. Two thirds of our emergency medicine residents scored better than 90 percent of their peers, and in fact four residents scored in the top one percent nationally.

Our ophthalmology residents performed similarly, with two thirds of residents scoring better than 89 percent of their national peers; half of our radiology residents also scored better than 85 percent of other residents throughout the country.

Possibly most impressive is our general surgery program, which the Association of Program Directors in Surgery recognized as having the best 15-year resident board pass rate in the nation. While the residency boards measure technical medical knowledge, we augment that with mentorship from seasoned military physicians and field exercises to augment traditional clinical work.

Many of our senior doctors at Madigan have lived the experience of deploying to combat zones and treating service members in field conditions. There is no better teacher of the importance of training highly qualified Army doctors than to be in combat and receive casualties.

Caring for them is why Army Medicine exists. Ensuring that future Army doctors are the absolute best in their fields, and are prepared to practice medicine downrange, is deeply personal to us. It’s what keeps us motivated to train our residents to the highest standards, and it’s our commitment to train future doctors in order to bring those service members wounded in combat safely home.