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USU to Produce First Textbook on Military Medicine

Four medical students carry a stretcher to a helicopter in a mock medical evacuation (Image credit: Tom Balfour)
 By Vivian Mason

Even though every medical specialty and subspecialty has at least a basic textbook dedicated to that subject, military medicine does not; that is, not until now.

Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USU) alumnus Army Col. (Dr.) Justin Woodson, a faculty member in the university’s Department of Military and Emergency Medicine (MEM), had a vision of how a textbook could be vital to the curriculum and that idea eventually morphed into a collaborative faculty venture.

With combined military and academic experience of more than 110 years, retired Army Colonel (Dr.) Francis G. O’Connor, retired Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Eric B. Schoomaker, and Dr. Dale C. Smith have worked together to produce a comprehensive introductory textbook for the military medical officer titled, “Fundamentals of Military Medical Practice.” O’Connor, Schoomaker and Smith serve as the senior editors for the text, and are joined by seven section editors who are all experienced teachers in classroom, laboratory, clinic, or field exercise settings.

The uniqueness of USU’s F. Edward Hébert School of Medicine (SOM) as the only U.S. medical school that teaches military medical professional practice and leadership plays significantly in the text, connecting knowledge to innovation and vision.

Medical students in full gear listen to instructors in the field in a tent at Bushmaster
"Media Night" is an exercise that has students practice answering hard questions from the media in order to prepare them for aggressive reporters in the aftermath of an event. (Image credit: Tom Balfour)

The book is divided into four main sections: Military Leadership, Science, and Ethics; Operational Health Service Support; Human Performance Optimization; and Tactical Military Medicine in the Operational Environment. Chapter topics include the history of the military medical officer, leadership and professionalism for medical officers, military law and ethics, tactical field skills, military communications, introduction of health service support, force health protection, joint health planning, the evolution of human performance optimization, physical fitness, psychological well-being, injury prevention and pre-habilitation, medical readiness, approach to the emergency patient, mass casualty, combat stress, traumatic brain injury, en route care, preventive medicine in the deployed environment, and more.

The textbook is aimed at the basic new uniformed medical student and practitioner. Its primary purpose is to support the initial curriculum for medical students at USU and to be a consultation text for students in the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). It is focused on medical students and new graduates in their first year of postgraduate medical education. It is designed to provide all the information that they need to function effectively in their first two or three military medical and operational roles.

However, there are also other uses of the book. Professional medical officers in the U.S. military and allied forces can benefit from the information. It is designed to serve as a consulting text for senior officers and to be useful to those individuals performing medical officer roles (e.g., military physician assistants, nurses [particularly advanced practice nurses], medics, corpsmen, and members of civilian organizations). It can also be effective in military graduate medical education programs as an introduction to military medicine.

A medical students attends to a volunteer in a cutsuit laying on the ground. An instructor watches on, other students take care of other "patients" in the background
Instructors observe as students apply the knowledge they've gained over the course of four years in medical school to a field practicum during Operation Bushmaster. (Image credit: Tom Balfour)

The textbook provides a solid foundation of core principles, as well as critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making processes for the military medical officer. Most chapters have case studies and vignettes, to be updated every three to five years, to reinforce content.

Fundamentals of Military Medical Practice is currently in production at the Army’s Borden Institute in San Antonio, Texas, but because the information is so critical to the MEM curriculum, the Institute is allowing USU students to use preprints of the chapters this academic year, thus enabling them to benefit from an actual textbook on military medicine.

“It is the hope of the department that this work will change military medicine going forward; that it will provide a source of authoritative information for the new military medical officer regardless of accession source or basic practice profession; and that it will be as useful to APNs [advanced practice nurses] and PAs [physician assistants] as it will be to members of the Medical Corps, USU grads, and HPSP interns,” said Smith. “Nothing like it has existed in the past! There have been field manuals and technical guidance about particular disease problems, but never a single text of what the provider needs to move from civilian equivalent garrison care to the unique operational environment. It will not only guide teaching at USU, but will also establish a basic standard of knowledge for everyone, in every service, and for all of those who provide care for those in harm’s way.”