• Tim Dewar

The Army is making communities feel better

As healthcare infrastructures deal with the significant economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding innovative, cost-effective ways to continue providing quality care to those in their community will be a necessity.

Army personnel assemble a Forward Resuscitative Surgical Team tent for a University of Arizona Medical School STEM event in early 2020. (US Army photo by Tim Dewar)

The Army’s Medical Department will be an ally to healthcare systems and frontline workers in accomplishing this task.

“The last year has shown us that the more education, training and resources we have available in our communities, the better able they are to handle the unexpected,” notes Brian Allee, D.O., and a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. “I am a better doctor because of the unique training and experiences I receive during my Reserve service.”

Allee, who has been in private practice in Oklahoma since 2003, joined the Army Reserve in 2017. He typically joins his unit for one weekend each month and for two weeks during the summer, but has had extended deployments in 2020 for a COVID response mission and in 2019 to Fort Hood, TX.

“The increased skills and knowledge I get from the Army’s advanced medical training and unique patient-care experiences benefits my Monday-through-Friday practice,” explains Allee. “I also bring back to my community the ability to network with the larger group of peers that my Reserve service provides.”

In cooperation with the 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion in Las Vegas, Allee will conduct a virtual suture clinic April 10 for more than 100 students attending the University of California Riverside. “To be able to reach into the homes of 100 students and share my skills with them on behalf of the Army is another of those opportunities that I wouldn’t have from private practice alone,” he notes.

With severe staffing shortages impacting many communities, the financial benefits that come with Army Reserve service can also allow frontline healthcare workers to remain in their community rather than continuously chase higher wages.

“Army Reserve healthcare workers can qualify for student-loan repayment programs, receive generous annual bonuses, earn officer pay and benefits and attend free courses that allow them to earn advance degrees,” states 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion Commander LTC Davin Bridges. “There is no other way a person can graduate from medical school without student-loan debt, work at a job in the community they love, get free training and education to help further their career and get to serve their country at the same time. It is a win-win all the way around.”

Army Reserve service isn’t just for those fresh out of college either. Dr. Timothy Gormley is a 53-year-old radiologist in Richland, WA, recently commissioned as a lieutenant colonel into the Army Reserve for the second time. His first Reserve duty station will be at the Veteran’s Administration hospital in Washington.

“I’m at the point in my life where I have the desire to give back to my country for everything it has given me,” Gormley notes. “For me, this is perfect because I can use my skills to help our nation’s veterans and still contribute to the well-being of my community. Why wouldn’t I chose to do something like that?”

Bridges also explains that his battalion can provide resources and training to healthcare facilities at no cost.

“Perhaps one of the biggest is our ability to offer medical, dental and veterinary subject-matter experts on almost any topic, at no cost to a facility.” he explains. “Administrators can request a presentation from one of our experts - either in person or virtually - on traumatic brain injury, for instance. We can also offer free classes that provide CE credits to hospital staff. To encourage young people to pursue a medical career we can host a suture clinic like the one LTC Allee is conducting or we can set up one of our mobile surgical tents at a hospital event.”

Bridges adds that Army medical personnel can partner with hospitals to provide expertise during mass-casualty drills or can arrange for the Army’s elite Golden Knights parachute team to conduct a demonstration at a facility as a way to thank healthcare workers for their hard work.

“No matter what type of uniform you put on in the morning, the medical community is one big family,” Bridges says. “We all have needs and we all have things we can share with others to help make our communities better for our patients. Part of my job is to make sure that we do everything we can to support our civilian counterparts and make sure they know we are here to help in any way we can.”

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