Saturday, February 25, 2012

Collaborative Projects on the Rise

On February 17th, the Navy Surgeon General, Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan called for enhanced collaboration among the services and other federal healthcare agencies at the annual Tri-Service Medical Information Management Symposium (TMIMS) held in Las Vegas.

Speaking to an audience of more than 1,000 military and civilian healthcare professionals, Nathan believes that by effectively coalescing medical resources, the military will enhance healthcare access, wellness, and provide the continuity of care to service members, their families, and veterans.

According to Verlin Harlan, Chief Information Officer for the U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, the Navy is working with sister services to explore ways to modernize the military’s healthcare network. Collaborative efforts are now being undertaken to improve bandwidth and to provide for other updates on and off the battlefield.

In an effort to have in-depth discussions on what the Navy is trying to accomplish, the Navy invited Major General (Dr) Byron C. Hepburn, the Commander of the Air Force’s 59th Medical Wing to tour the Tri-service Research Laboratory hosted by the Naval Medical Research Unit at their San Antonio Laboratory. At this joint meeting, the Navy briefed General Hepburn on new surgical devices and discussed the Navy’s wide array of biomedical research.

In an Army collaborative effort, the Army’s Africa’s first “Medical Readiness and Training Exercise” of the year, known as MEDRETE 12-1, medical personnel traveled to Zanzibar, Tanzania in January. In February, the Army doctors performed a suture-less cataract surgical technique to provide medical treatment to local citizens.

Medical personnel included military specialists and civilians who came from the Womack Army Medical Center in Fort Bragg, N.C., the Madigan Army Medical Center in Joint Base Lewis-McCord Washington, the Joint Base Elmendor-Richardson Hospital, in Alaska, and Caserma Ederie in Vicenza, Italy.

The surgical techniques known as “Extracapsular Cataract Extraction” an inexpensive and low tech procedure takes only 20 minutes for a person blinded by cataracts to regain their eyesight. This project involved the collaboration of not only the U.S. medical team, but also Ministry of Health Officials from Zanzibar and the Tanzania People’s Defense Force.

In the university sector, the University of Pennsylvania has established a collaborative research effort with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. This relationship was formed when Congress appropriated $32 million to develop technology for proton therapy.

Ten percent of the money is going to Walter Reed to do research and development and the remainder of the funding will go to the Roberts Proton Therapy Center a cancer radiation facility housed within Penn Medicine. Projects will include how to design and improve proton therapy, how to improve scanning techniques to deliver radiation, how chemo and proton therapy can be combined in a beneficial way, and how proton therapy can be used to improve surgical outcomes.

Also, the funding will also be used to provide for the Joint Military Civilian Proton Radiotherapy Center established to provide oversight and management for research will be transformed into a center so that all military healthcare beneficiaries diagnosed with cancer can receive proton radiotherapy treatment as prescribed at Walter Reed.