Army Physician Assistants: Strategically Shaping the Future of Military Healthcare at Medical Warfighting Forum
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - The month of October has manifested as a nexus for two pivotal events for Army Medicine, both underscoring the critical role of Army physician assistants in medical care and combat scenarios. The start of National Physician Assistants Week, celebrating the legacy and service of physician assistants, was paralleled by the insightful deliberations of the first ever Medical Warfighting Forum hosted by Maj. Gen. Michael Talley, commanding general U.S. Medical Center of Excellence and was held on October 4-5 and was held at Lackland Air Force Base, Joint Base San Antonio.
The forum brought leaders from throughout Army Medicine, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, the U.S. Army Futures Command, other Army major commands as well as representatives from the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Air Force and partner nations. The two day event focused on the role of military medicine as the Department of Defense pivots to large scale combat operations in support of U.S. national defense strategy. Over 200 hundred people attended in person, with another over 300 participating virtually. Attendees engaged in in-depth discussions on current and future developments in military medicine and were able to see medical technology demonstrations firsthand at a large display setup by the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity.
At the beginning of the forum Talley addressed the audience by discussing the role of military medicine in possible future conflicts, mentioning that what is needed for future combat operations is not the way the U.S. has prosecuted wars for the past 20 years. “This forum will show that what worked in the past may not work or be useful in 2030,” said Talley. This is an external forum for those that may not have participated in multiple limited objective experiments that we have executed this year. If we are going to win our nations wars it is imperative that we clear the battlefield and return to duty casualties as quickly as we can. As we work jointly it is important to have an external audience ask questions and identify if there are things that we are missing as we look at developments going forward.”
A cornerstone of the Medical Warfighting Forum was the invaluable participation of Col. Bill Soliz, commander of the Medical Readiness Command, Pacific and Army Physician Assistant, Office of the Surgeon General of the United States Army, consultant. Acting as a voice and representative for Army physician assistants, Col. Soliz's insights and discussions laid the foundation for understanding the direction and emphasis of the Army's evolving medical strategies. The forum was a profound testament to the Army Medical Modernization Strategy's ambitions, focusing on the confluence of emerging concepts, the amalgamation of state-of-the-art technologies, and championing interoperability. The mission statement resonated with clarity — augmenting healthcare support's efficacy and efficiency for the holistic betterment of the joint warfighter.
Diving deeper into the forum's essence:
• Threat-Based Evaluations: A forward-looking approach was adopted to mold the healthcare personnel of the future, envisage the Army landscape of 2040, and shape an advanced Army Health System to empower the warfighters of 2030.
• Addressing Challenges: The dialogues expanded on enhancing interoperability, refining evacuation strategies, and championing an ethos of continuous innovation and improvement.
But amidst these strategic discussions, a poignant moment was Col. Soliz's interaction with the students of the Inter-Service Physician Assistant Program, or IPAP. Facilitated by Col. Larry Lindsay, the Army's Senior Service Representative for IPAP, this session was more than just a lecture, it was a vision-sharing endeavor. Speaking to an audience of over 200 IPAP students, Col. Soliz remarked, "The horizon of the physician assistant profession is on the cusp of a transformative phase. Adaptations in the federal healthcare framework are nudging the Army physician assistants to modernize our state licensure policy which aligns with civilian practice.”
Highlighting the importance of Army Health System imperatives, Col. Soliz passionately discussed the significance of clearing the wounded, optimizing return-to-duty strategies, and addressing the challenges of contested logistics. He further accentuated the urgency for state licensure reforms, enhanced credentialing processes, robust collaborations with Defense Health Agency, and a refined focus on preparing for large scale combat operations. The underpinnings of his discussions emphasized the strategic significance of physician assistants in training combat medics, thereby ensuring their preparedness for contemporary and future battlefields.
Reflecting on his interaction with the students, Col. Soliz observed, "Our future rests on the shoulders of these young professionals. Their training, insights, and dedication will be the driving forces propelling the Army's medical strategies into the future."
During the senior leader panel Joseph Holland, SES, U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence Deputy to the Commanding General said “Every member in this room, and all the members of your teams, need to understand the medical research development and acquisition system, and the process involved to move from an idea to something in the hands of a soldier and what your role and your counterpart’s role is in this process. We have to take advantage of the opportunities that we have been given now. It is not too frequently that we see our Army invest resources into solving problems to the magnitude that we have today. We have to come together as a team, as an organization, to make it right for the future.”
Closing out the forum Talley thanked the audience and their participation, insight and questions. “We have a good pathway forward as an enterprise. I am looking forward to the next event.”
The twin events of October, the Physician Assistants Week and the Medical Warfighting Forum, serve not just as a commemoration of the present but as a beacon for the future. They amplify the importance of Army physician assistants not just as healthcare professionals but as visionaries and strategists, critical in shaping the military's future medical and combat paradigms. As the events of the month unfold, the path forward for Army physician assistants becomes ever clearer — a journey marked by innovation, dedication, and strategic leadership.