Military Medical Advancements Benefit Civilian Health Care
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 16, 2008 Psychological health issues and traumatic brain injuries are primary areas of study in military medicine, a senior Department of Defense medical official said.
“What we are learning in studies will lead to some major breakthroughs in the world of medicine,” Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick, deputy director for force health protection and readiness programs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, said in an interview on the “Dot Mil Docs” program on BlogTalkRadio.com.
Kilpatrick said that the better they understand how to prevent both psychological health issues and traumatic brain injuries will lead to quicker diagnosis and improve wounded servicemembers’ treatment time.
He added that the contributions military medicine has made to the world are born out of the urgencies and contingencies encountered on the battlefield.
“When you to go to war, you don’t have a fixed building or a fixed structure, and you have equipment that has to be much more mobile and much more rugged,” Kilpatrick said. “So I think what the military has learned in combat and all theaters of operation have been those contributions to medicine.”
He added that technological advances since the Vietnam War have directly benefited servicemembers’ ability to survive wounds suffered in combat.
“One of the major breakthroughs in Vietnam was the use of the helicopter to transport the wounded,” Kilpatrick said. “That has advanced to today’s war, where we have actually flying intensive care units. Where we can put multiple people inside a large plane with nurses, technicians and doctors and safely transport them out of theater to a major hospital to get the quality care they need and deserve.”
In addition, the ability to quickly move the injured out of harm’s way has increased the rate at which servicemembers also recover from injuries suffered on the battlefield.
“In today’s war, in the combat theater, 97 percent of those people who were wounded in theater survived those wounds because of the medical care,” Kilpatrick said. “That’s just a phenomenal number, and it’s because that care is so immediate. Within seconds or minutes, there is medic or a corpsman there being able to use a one-handed tourniquet to stop bleeding, [or] able [to] use a ‘Fibernet’ cloth bandage, which is another research product, that has gone from bench to battlefield to save people’s lives.”
The military medical field consists of 140,000 care providers, educators, trainers and medical researchers. These professionals work at 65 military hospitals, 412 medical clinics and 414 dental clinics.
Numerous classrooms and research laboratories around the world also are sponsored and run by all branches of the services. Some of those medical researchers have initiated the Millennium Cohort Study, which was started five years ago, in which they are studying 140,000 servicemembers over 20 years.
The servicemembers will report in every three years about their health and to be evaluated, so researchers can better understand the rigors of military service and how it affects long-term health, Kilpatrick said.
“We are trying to look prospectively at people, and I think this is a very important study that is ongoing,” she said. ”We think in the next 15 years the studies will be invaluable not only to the military people, but to our civilian counterparts.”
Kilpatrick also said that military research has been directly applied to the civilian world. For instance, Lifeline helicopters that rescue civilians after highway crashes evolved from military medical-evacuation flights, he explained.
(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg works for the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)