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Military Medicine Advances via Defense Health Agency

Image of DHA Logo. DHA Logo

The Defense Health Agency is on track to advance the delivery of cutting edge military medical services to some 9.6 million beneficiaries all over the world.

This is the message its key leaders imparted to an audience of service members and civilian staff at a town hall meeting held March 25 at the Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Va.

“You are members of the best medical organization in the history of the world,” said Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, director of healthcare operations for the Defense Health Agency.

Established Oct. 1, 2013, the Defense Health Agency lies at the heart of Military Health System governance reform by assuming responsibility for shared services, functions, and activities of this system, as well as other common clinical and business processes.

“Over the last 13 years of continuous combat operations there have been a lot of innovations,” said Thomas. “The medicine that we practice today saves lives tomorrow, and becomes the standard of care in U.S. medicine and world medicine.”

These innovations, in triage care, pain management and many other areas, can be attributed to the men and women who make up the Military Health System, said Thomas. “It is a team effort with doctors, nurses, technicians, and administrators,” he said.

“Today U.S. military medicine is the glue that keeps that NATO coalition together in Afghanistan and other places around the world. Today you are better off getting hurt, being a trauma victim, in Afghanistan, than you are in many other places around the world,” said Thomas. “It’s because of the military medical machine that we have in place there, which saves lives.”

At the same time, Command Master Chief Terry Prince, senior enlisted advisor for the Defense Health Agency, underscored the importance of maintaining a focus on the individual.

“Do we help our folks get what they need to be a successful soldier, sailor, airman or family member, and are they medically ready?” he said by way of explaining his relatively new role as a direct advisor to Defense Health Agency Director Lt. Gen. Douglas Robb.

“I’m talking to sailors all the time, to soldiers, Marines, airmen, coast guardsmen, public health service officers … and then, most importantly, (to) our backbone, our civilian team,” said Prince. “Whether it’s at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center or Camp Lejeune, civilians keep us going during times when we are deployed.”

Thomas meanwhile described healthcare operations as “the DNA of the DHA.” He underscored that a new “fusion cell” would soon serve as an operations center for the entire organization. And he mentioned that a first ever TRICARE Blue Ribbon Panel was held March 27 and focused on bringing together Military Health System leaders to shape the next generation of TRICARE contracts.

David Bowen, health information technology director at the Defense Health Agency, highlighted how his area was becoming more streamlined under the auspices of the agency.

“We’re heavily engaged in a major project, and that is the acquisition of a new electronic health record for the DOD Military Health System,” he said. “It’s a huge effort.”

In terms of shoring up human resources, this is one of the most advanced of 10 shared services overseen by the Defense Health Agency. “We are probably the first shared service that will begin a process of putting both civilian and military personnel in their positions permanently,” said Bowen.

Rear Adm. William Roberts meanwhile attended the town hall meeting through a virtual visit from San Antonio, where he serves as the commandant of the Medical Education Training Campus at Fort Sam Houston, as well as the director of education and training for the Defense Health Agency.

“(The training campus) is a great inter-service collaborative effort with 20,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen who graduate every year from our 51 programs, six of which are consolidated between at least two services, and in the overwhelming majority of cases among all three,” he said.

Roberts highlighted the importance of a military medical education consortium partnership involving various agencies and organizations.

Defense Health Agency leaders summarized positive developments in other shared services, including research and business support for logistics, facilities, budget and resource management.

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Last Updated: October 05, 2023
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