Philanthropic support has recently helped to launch a new initiative with the goal of better providing care to men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces. The Uniformed Services University of the Health Science (USUHS), Department of Surgery, has provided generous funding to help establish a partnership between the American College of Surgeons (ACS) and the Military Health System.
During the 2014 ACS Clinical Congress in San Francisco, CA, the ACS and Military Health System first met to discuss this strategic alliance. The goals are expanding education and training for military surgeons, sustaining systems established during times of war, ensuring military surgeon readiness, and increasing quality and patient safety in the military health system. A panel session at the 2015 Clinical Congress provided a one-year update on the initiative.
"For thousands of years, the battlefield unfortunately has been the classroom where the greatest medical advances have been made," said Jonathan Woodson, MD, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. "Working with the ACS, we can translate these learnings to the private sector. But knowledge sharing is a two-way street, and our relationship with ACS is as important in peacetime as it is in wartime."
Panelists highlighted progress made over the past year of the partnership, including:
Efforts to expand the ACS National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP®) to additional military hospitals by 2016, including development of an ACS NSQIP toolkit to help hospitals implement the program, initiate improvement and establish systems and culture to sustain improvement over time.
Work with the ACS Committee on Trauma to capture lessons learned from wars of the past decade and establish lasting systems that can be readily deployed in times of war.
Revival of the Excelsior Surgical Society, a former society for military surgeons formed after World War II. The new Excelsior Society held its first meeting in 2015, and planning for a 2016 annual meeting has begun.
Over the coming years, additional efforts will focus on creating an "Optimal Resources" book for military trauma, similar to the ACS Optimal Resources book for private sector trauma centers. Other efforts will include partnering with the ACS Division of Education to share education and training resources, and identifying the best way to prepare new military surgeons to serve in combat. The latter may include partnerships with high-volume private sector trauma centers across the United States.
"Our number one priority is to sustain the lessons learned by the men and women who put themselves in harm's way," said Jay Johanningman, MD, FACS, of Cincinnati, OH.
Eric Elster, MD, FACS of Bethesda, MD, professor and chair, department of surgery at USUHS and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and Military Health System Strategic Partnership American College of Surgeons executive co-chair, agreed. "We can't wait five or 10 years to be prepared," he said. "We need to be prepared tomorrow."