Over the past month, our Military and the Nation has continued to respond and meet the unique challenges presented during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Military Health System (MHS) has been central to this effort in numerous ways, both as an organization and through individual accomplishments. And while supporting the pandemic response we also have continued to advance an array of other MHS initiatives. Updates on a few of these efforts include:
MHS GENESIS Go-Live. The rollout of MHS GENESIS continues to make enormous strides leveraging lessons learned from the previous execution of the Initial Operational Capability sites on the West Coast and Wave Travis. On September 26, 2020, the Nellis Wave went live at the following bases: Beale AFB, Edwards AFB, Los Angeles AFB, Nellis AFB, Vandenberg AFB, Fort Irwin Army Base, and the United States Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center. The volume of WAVE Nellis requirements was two times the size of any previous roll out. Leadership at each facility reported no show stoppers and provided positive feedback. Lessons learned from previous sites were instrumental to a seamless release and resulted in a significantly reduced number of initial trouble tickets requiring action. The next deployment will be WAVE Pendleton and the “Go-Live” is 31 October.
National Influenza Vaccine Modernization Strategy (NIVMS). To help ensure we are prepared to address the impacts of seasonal and pandemic influenza viruses, DoD and HHS co-hosted a series of stakeholder listening sessions. I had the chance to provide a welcome video for those attending these virtual sessions. This effort is a collaboration among industry, academia and government to support the strategy released 8 June to implement the Executive Order to modernize the flu vaccine and promote national security and public health. Exciting advances will most certainly result from this enlightened collaboration. We discussed the role of federal and non-federal partners in NIVMS, and solicited feedback and viewpoints from external stakeholders. I’d like to thank COL Jennifer Kishimori, Director, CBRN Medical Countermeasures Policy of Health Readiness Policy and Oversight in Health Affairs, for representing the Department during this effort. Anything we can do to increase the effectiveness of flu vaccine development and distribution will improve military readiness and capability.
Speaking of the flu vaccine, we are in the beginning of the 2020-21 flu season. Flu vaccination will help reduce the overall impact of respiratory illnesses on the population and decrease the burden on the health care system during the COVID-19 pandemic. We encourage all of you to get the flu vaccine. Beneficiaries can also get a flu vaccine at no cost by visiting a TRICARE participating network pharmacy. Visit www.tricare.mil/flu to learn about TRICARE coverage and the flu vaccine.
COVID Convalescent Plasma: At the onset of the pandemic, the DoD developed a convalescent plasma (CCP) collection strategy to ensure we were able to independently support advanced COVID-19 illness within the force. We were charged by the Secretary of Defense to collect 10,000 units by September 30, 2020. Thanks to our dedicated Service members, their families, and our beneficiaries, we exceeded our 10,000 unit goal by collecting 10,745 units by the close of the fiscal year. Critical research continues to study the science on the impact of CCP on moderately and critically ill patients and how the DoD can protect our operational forces with the availability of CCP for use in remote locations. Thank you to everyone that made this possible, especially those working with COL Audra Taylor in the Armed Services Blood Program.
AMSUS Update: We are working with AMSUS representatives to support this year’s virtual conference by planning to highlight the MHS pandemic response through participation in the plenary session and breakout presentations. The conference will occur virtually 6 – 10 December, and the MHS Plenary will be held on 8 December. We are excited to announce that Deputy Secretary of Defense HON David Norquist and Dr. Matt Hepburn, JPEO CBRN and SME on vaccines for Operation Warp Speed will both be speaking during the plenary. Please save the date!
Women’s Reproductive Health Survey: The DoD Women’s Reproductive Health Survey is available for female active-duty Service members. The survey assesses reproductive health and well-being and examines behaviors and experiences that may impact readiness. The survey is voluntary, confidential and .anonymous and takes about 15 minutes. Participation is by invitation only, so if you were invited to participation please take a few minutes to complete this important assessment. The results will be used to improve policies, programs and services. This is the first time in nearly 30 years that a DoD-wide study of only female service members’ experiences has been completed. Some service members may have seen some of these questions on other surveys in the past. But because those studies were of limited groups of women, and because of confidentiality protections, that information cannot be used to provide a complete picture of service women’s experiences, reproductive health and well-being. Please visit the site before 3 November and use your military email to determine your eligibility to participate: https://dodwomenshealth.com.
National Physician Assistant’s (PA) Week. The US Military played a critical role in the development of the PA profession. The vision of Dr. Eugene Stead Jr, a doctor who served in WWII, to solve a growing shortage of primary care providers in the 1960’s led to the launch of the profession. The first graduating PA class, created at Duke University in 1967, consisted of three former US Navy corpsmen. I had the opportunity to visit the Fort Belvoir Community Hospital to celebrate National PA Week and personally thank the 14 PA’s assigned to the hospital and recognize all active duty, reserve, civil service and contractor PAs serving our military, their dependents, and all beneficiaries. Thank you to CAPT Cynthia Judy, Director of FBCH and CAPT Saira Aslam, Chief of Staff of FBCH, and their incredible staff for their hospitality in giving me a chance to highlight the remarkable work of our amazing MHS corps of PAs.
MHS STAFF IN THE SPOTLIGHT
On 15 October, during a Health Affairs Town Hall, I had the honor to present the Secretary of Defense Medal for Meritorious Civilian Service to Dr. Mark A. Hamilton, recognizing his exceptional leadership, invaluable contributions, and extraordinary performance across the MHS as Health System Transformation Office, Chief of Staff, for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs from October 2017 until October 2019. Well done, Dr. Hamilton!
COL(Ret)/Dr. Paul Pasquina, Professor and Chair of the Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, is the 2020 recipient of the AMSUS Lifetime Achievement Award. Congratulations Dr. Pasquina!
As we head into the final weeks of 2020, I want to say how proud I am of this remarkable team and all we have accomplished together, especially amidst the challenges faced operating in a Covid-19 environment. Thanks for all you do for the Military Health System and those we serve.