ALEXANDRIA, Va.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--As a family physician in the U.S. Army, Col. Mike Oshiki has conducted medical training missions in Thailand, worked with U.S. Special Forces and the Sri Lankan Army and even helped facilitate a program for Australian working dogs. Today he’s back in the United States where he practices the full spectrum of family medicine in an operational setting, overseeing health care for 20,000 Soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle.
Most Americans are familiar with military hospitals like Walter Reed National Military Medical Center near Washington, D.C., but may not realize that much of the care Soldiers receive takes place within their units. Physicians, nurses and physician assistants in the operational setting are assigned to combat units where they work to keep Soldiers healthy through training and during deployment.
“I joined the Army to take care of combat troops,” said Col. Oshiki, Division Surgeon, 7th Infantry Division. “Operational medicine allows me to use my skills as a clinician and leader wherever the troops are, whether at a clinic on base or in a portable hospital during a humanitarian mission.”
Physicians who choose an Operational Medicine assignment provide primary care and oversee many other health programs for their units, including nutrition counseling, physical therapy and behavioral health treatment. They follow their Battalion, Brigade or Division (depending on rank) wherever it goes.
U.S. Army Col. Michael Place, immediate past president of the military chapter of the American Academy of Family Physicians, said, “I love the challenges of operational medicine. It offers ongoing professional growth and the satisfaction of knowing I’m ensuring the health, and oftentimes the lives, of my comrades in arms.”
Operational medicine requires treating a wide range of common conditions – coughs and colds, fractures, infections, musculoskeletal pain – so the field is well suited for primary care physicians. “Specialists who work in operational medicine go in knowing they won’t be practicing their specialties day in and day out,” explained Oshiki. “However, it’s a great fit for generalists trained in emergency medicine, family medicine, internal medicine and pediatrics.”
Abundant leadership opportunities are another draw of operational medicine, as Army officers can be promoted to positions of responsibility relatively early in their careers. For example, at the age of 40, Place was appointed the senior U.S. medical officer assigned to the 101st Airborne Division in Northern Iraq, supervising the reconstruction and development of the Iraqi medical system in four provinces, or about one-third of the country. Then he served as chief medical officer of a large community hospital.
“If you want to learn to lead, the U.S. Army Medical Department provides you with the opportunities to hone your skills,” said Place. “Many physicians who transition from active duty find that civilian hospitals and health systems are eager to tap their leadership skills.”
Physicians lead health care teams toward continuous improvement in service delivery and training. For example, the Army is implementing Solider Centered Medical Homes at its bases to deliver better continuity of care for Soldiers when they deploy. Team training is also led by physicians to stay a step ahead of the combat unit’s health needs. Training focuses on battlefield requirements such as advanced trauma management and resuscitation, supervision of preventive medicine programs, low-tech physical therapy modalities, and identification and treatment of behavioral health conditions.
“To train young doctors, nurses, medics and technicians to have confidence in their ability to save lives in combat is inherently rewarding,” said Place. “To watch them do so has been the pinnacle of my professional career.”
Finally, the Army offers interested physicians the opportunity to participate in medical research. The Military Operational Medicine Research Program (MOMRP) seeks to advance the field of Operational Medicine through research into the physiological and psychological factors that affect combat readiness.
About the U.S. Army Medical Department
One of the largest health care networks in the world, Army Health Care offers more than 90 professional health care career paths – more than any other military service. Practicing physicians and health professionals can join the Active Duty Army or Army Reserve at any time in their career and may receive up to a $75,000 special pay bonus in eligible specialties. For more information, visit goarmy.com/amedd.html.
About the Army Marketing and Research Group
The Army Marketing and Research Group (AMRG) is the U.S. Army's national marketing, marketing research and analysis and accessions analysis organization. The AMRG develops innovative and effective ways to: connect with the American public and make the Army more accessible and understood; increase awareness of both the benefits and value of Army service; and motivate the most qualified candidates to choose the Army as their service of first choice.