Emergency & Trauma

May 8, 2024

Top military medical leader supports additional expansion of partnerships with Medical Center 

VUMC is an official site of programs that deliver medical training opportunities to military medical personnel serving on Army Trauma Teams and that bring combat medics, licensed practical nurses and operating room technologists to VUMC for rotations to complete much of their annual medical skills competency requirements.

McQueen posed on the LifeFlight helipad with some of the AMCT3 members now working at VUMC: Douglas Low, RN, Emergency Medicine; Shannon Martin, Emergency/LifeFlight paramedic; Joshua Smith, assistant professor of Clinical Surgery; Michael Derickson, assistant professor of Clinical Surgery; Christopher Bickett, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine; and Kayla Hearn, RN, Critical Care. (Photo by Donn Jones)
Bradley Dennis, MD, chair of the Vanderbilt Military Affairs Committee and Trauma Medical Director, presents a historical overview of military-civilian partnerships for the Army visitors. (Photo by Donn Jones)
Teresa Hobt-Bingham, MSN, RN, NE-BC, associate nursing officer, Surgery, takes part in the discussions about the Medical Center’s active partnerships with the military. (Photo by Donn Jones)
Warren Sandberg, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Chief of Staff at Vanderbilt University Hospital, shares how the soldiers benefit clinical operations throughout the hospital. (Photo by Donn Jones)
C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, speaks with Col. Samuel L. Preston, commander of Fort Campbell’s Blanchfield Army Community Hospital (BACH). (Photo by Donn Jones)
Seth Karp, MD, chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences, H. William Scott Jr. Chair in Surgery and surgeon-in-chief for VUMC, speaks with McQueen. (Photo by Donn Jones)
Christopher Bickett, MD, assistant professor of Emergency Medicine, and an AMCT3 member at VUMC, explains the operation of the Vanderbilt University Hospital Emergency Department for McQueen. (Photo by Donn Jones)
Maggie Gallagher, MD, assistant professor of Clinical Pediatric Surgery, is also the chief of General Surgery at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. She shares her thoughts on the strengths of the military-civilian partnership. (Photo by Donn Jones)
McQueen visited the LASIR (Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability) Facility to learn more about the work there to measure the effects of shock waves on the brain and optic nerve. At left is LASIR founder and co-director Doug Adams, PhD, at right is Tonia Rex, PhD, professor of Ophthalmology & Visual Sciences. (Photo by Donn Jones)

It’s not unusual to see military personnel in the hallways of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC), but what visitors might not realize is that these soldiers in camouflage are also physicians, nurses and combat medics who are here working at a Level 1 verified trauma center to sharpen lifesaving skills needed to care for the wounded during a combat deployment.  

Maj. Gen. Anthony L. McQueen, Deputy Surgeon General of the United States Army, visited VUMC in April to meet with VUMC senior leaders and learn firsthand how the military-civilian partnership is strengthening the Army’s medical readiness and benefiting VUMC. 

McQueen previously commanded Blanchfield Army Community Hospital (BACH) at nearby Fort Campbell, Kentucky, from 2017 until 2019. He had been working then to establish a formal partnership between VUMC and BACH before he left that role for another assignment. 

He expressed gratitude at now witnessing those plans become reality and said he’d like to see the program at VUMC expand further. 

“It’s awesome to come back and see what’s developed from when I was serving at Fort Campbell,” McQueen said. “As the hospital commander there, we could see the vision, and we could see the potential for everyone — the Army and Vanderbilt. But to now see it in action and how it’s benefiting each other, and more importantly, that it’s ensuring that our physicians, nurses and medics have their readiness levels where they need to be is just remarkable. So, when called upon they can do the hard mission we ask them to do and save lives on the battlefield.” 

In March 2021, VUMC became an official site of the U.S. Army Medical Department Military-Civilian Trauma Team Training (AMCT3) Program, formalizing a relationship between the two entities that is built on a long history of collaboration. The AMCT3 program delivers medical training opportunities to military medical personnel serving on Army Trauma Teams by assigning them to civilian trauma centers to sustain the highest level of clinical proficiency in their specialties. 

VUMC is also a site for the Strategic Medical Asset Readiness Training (SMART) Program for Army Medicine. This program brings combat medics, licensed practical nurses, and operating room technologists to VUMC for two to three week rotations. SMART allows them to complete much of their annual medical skills competency requirements.  

In addition to AMCT3 and SMART, Army physicians and surgeons from BACH also train at VUMC, and trauma and surgical educators from VUMC provide educational outreach and critical skills training for military personnel both at BACH and at other Army units at Fort Campbell. 

Bradley Dennis, MD, associate professor of Surgery in the Division of Acute Care Surgery, and chair of the Vanderbilt Military Affairs Committee, presented a historical overview of military-civilian partnerships, including documented Vanderbilt involvement in World War I. Medical Center leaders then shared their support of the partnerships, including a desire to increase the numbers of military medical personnel working alongside VUMC medical staff.  

“I want to convey our commitment to this program, and I want to convey our commitment to each of you individually,” said C. Wright Pinson, MD, MBA, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer. “We are well aware that there are a lot of geopolitical issues out there today. We’re extremely grateful to our military colleagues for handling those issues for us. We understand the role you play, we value what you do, and we thank you. Anything we can do to help you meet your mission we want to do. 

“I also want to thank Alex Jahangir, Brad Dennis and others who have helped foster this relationship for a long period of time. This has not been something that has come up over the last few months, or the last couple of years. This is a decade’s long commitment. And it has worked very well.” 

Pinson emphasized that the relationship is mutually beneficial, with VUMC medical providers learning from their military partners how to overcome challenges and manage trauma in austere settings.

“These military-civilian relationships are essential for the health, welfare and readiness of our warfighters,” said Col. Samuel L. Preston, commander of Fort Campbell’s BACH, who was part of the visiting Army contingent. “With everything going on in the world today, geopolitically, we must be fast followers in the advancement of health care and medical services available to our servicemembers going into harm’s way.  

McQueen and other military medical leaders toured clinical spaces at VUMC, including the emergency department and intensive care units, where military medical personnel work alongside their civilian medical counterparts. McQueen asked soldiers to describe how the program was helping them sharpen the critical skills needed when caring for wounded soldiers. 

At the end of their visit to VUMC, the Army representatives visited the Laboratory for Systems Integrity and Reliability (LASIR) Facility where Tonia Rex, PhD, Doug Adams, PhD, and Doug Terry, PhD, shared their Pathfinder work to identify the health effects of blast overpressure resulting from firing high-powered weapons in close quarters, such as from inside a Black Hawk helicopter. 

Pathfinder, a collaborative program led by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory and the Civil-Military Innovation Institute, encourages academics to work closely with soldiers to co-design technological solutions tailored to real-world Army challenges. 

The team has developed a true-to-life modeling environment in which sensors can measure the effects of shock waves on the brain and optic nerve. The goal of the research is to better define impacts of repeated blast exposures on soldier health and identify safety measures for personnel working in higher risk occupational specialties.