Feature   Defense News

Health Consortium Graduation Employs COVID-19 Safety Protocols

July 2, 2020 | BY Daniel J. Calderón , Brooke Army Medical Center

Graduation and awards ceremonies for the 2020 San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium were postponed and changed to reflect safety protocols made necessary by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly 300 students completed their curriculum and would have walked across the stage June 5. But consortium leaders, in coordination with the Brooke Army Medical Center, the 59th Medical Wing and the Defense Health Agency, were able to build a graduation ceremony video to be played at smaller individual, in-person residency program ceremonies.

Two military doctors wearing face masks sit at a table comparing notes.
Case Conversation
Army Capt. (Dr.) Elizabeth Koslow and Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Benjamin Long discuss patients’ cases in the pediatrics team room at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, June 11, 2020. Both doctors completed their residency and graduated from the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium.
Photo By: Daniel J. Calderón, Army
VIRIN: 200611-A-TV651-1008C

The video will allow family members and friends the opportunity to hear from senior leaders and enjoy the day with the students.

In the ceremony video, Army Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Ronald J. Place, the director of the Defense Health Agency, took time to congratulate and encourage the graduates from his work location in Washington.

"The Army, the Air Force, the Navy — they need your talents," Place told the graduates. "The country needs your talents. In fact, the world needs your talents. The paradigm has shifted. The conditions are different from when you began your residencies. Many of you are about to embark on your first solo assignment — practitioners in your new specialty.

"And if that’s not enough of an adjustment," he continued, "you're assuming these new responsibilities in an unfamiliar world where the health of all of our citizens has an impact, on the economy, on national security, on the delivery of — and access to — health care for other conditions and diseases."

Two Army doctors work in a pediatrics ward.
Swaddle Simulation
Army Capt. (Dr.) Mateo Betancourt and Army Capt. (Dr.) Elizabeth Koslow simulate checking on a swaddled infant in the pediatrics ward at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas, June 11, 2020. Both doctors completed their residency and graduated from the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium.
Photo By: Daniel J. Calderón, Army
VIRIN: 200611-A-TV651-1036C

Place reminded the graduates they will be on the front line of ensuring medical readiness for the military around the world, and their leadership and medical training has made them "the most prepared on the planet to operate in this complex environment." He said the skills they have honed throughout their military careers and during their residency period are critical in an array of arenas.

Retired Air Force Col. (Dr.) Mark True, dean of the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium, said he is proud of the graduating students.

"This year's graduates are ready to face the challenges ahead of them," True said. "Their program leaders and faculty have ensured this. Unique this year is how the nation will continue to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, which will require out-of-the-box thinking as the way we conduct health care has changed as a result.

"One bright spot about recent events is that we have collectively advanced telehealth capability, such that both providers and patients are more comfortable with this mode of care, and our graduates are prepared," he said.

Four military doctors wearing masks stand in a pediatrics ward as one of them checks a monitor.
Team Work
Army Capt. (Dr.) Mateo Betancourt goes over a patient’s chart with Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Danny Catts and Air Force Capt. (Dr.) James Barry while Air Force Capt. (Dr.) Jessika Weber focuses on the monitor in the pediatrics ward at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio- Fort Sam Houston, Texas, June 11, 2020. The doctors completed their residency and graduated from the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium.
Photo By: Daniel J. Calderón, Army
VIRIN: 200611-A-TV651-1013C

The graduates are broken down into two basic categories: Graduate Medical Education and Graduate-level Allied Health Education. The GME graduates consisted of 87 Army, 139 Air Force and two Navy personnel. The GAHE consisted of 30 Army and 23 Air Force personnel,along with two civilians.On June 19, SAUSHEC held an outdoor awards ceremony at the Freedom Park Amphitheater, to honor the graduates and faculty members.

The consortium's mission is to advance military health and readiness through the education of physicians and allied health specialists to lead the nation’s Military Health System into the future. It is one of two Defense Department graduate health education consortia. It is the second-largest DOD and largest Air Force GME platform for military doctors. It is also the largest DOD GAHE platform.

It hosts 37 GME specialty programs and 22 GAHE programs. The training programs are located primarily at the Brooke Army Medical Center and at the 59th Medical Wing's Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas.