SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE --
Local partnerships with civilian hospitals have long been a pillar of military surgeons’ training. Often, due to the young, healthy active duty patient population, doctors supplement their clinical currency by seeing cases in civilian hospitals. However, up until this point, the military had not had a medical training platform for overseas Airmen.
Maj Travis Wittick, a Seymour Johnson Reserve citizen Airman with the 916th Aerospace Medical Squadron, visited Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England in July 2018. During annual tour training with the 48th Medical Group, Wittick was asked by Lakenheath leadership to devise a plan to scale a medical training platform to military medical staff stationed overseas.
The Joint Platform for European Clinical Currency would be the first and only joint medical training platform outside the continental United States, said Wittick. Currently, six physicians with Lakenheath’s 48th MG regularly work in local off-base hospitals, including Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, to keep up their clinical currency skills.
Wittick communicated a roadmap to Lakenheath leadership that would scale the current platform from just six Air Force physicians to a future state of more than 300 physicians, nurses and medical support staff from all branches: the Air Force, Army and Navy.
The JPECC idea was warmly embraced by the Lakenheath command, said Wittick.
“I give Lakenheath a lot of credit because they asked me to review the program, create a roadmap and recommend the next steps,” said Wittick. “They were passionate about it, and their passion fed my passion. This was one of their top priorities.”
Several stateside military hospitals have formed robust partnerships with local civilian medical facilities, said Wittick. Examples of these programs include the Center for Sustainment of Trauma and Readiness Skills partnership with University of Maryland Medical Center and the Sustained Medical and Readiness Training Program piloted by the 99th Medical Group at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. In these arrangements, military doctors rotate through high-volume civilian hospitals to remain clinically current on their skills.
“Your average civilian population is older, sicker, and needs more complex care than active duty Airmen,” said Wittick. “Our docs get great opportunities off base to see complex care.”
Wittick used the SMART program staffing model as a baseline for JPECC, he said. The staffing model would consist of one field grade officer, one senior noncommissioned officer, and one NCO to administer the program. These individuals would also be able to rotate through the local hospitals themselves.
“JPECC is a phenomenal program for readiness, for getting our surgeons ready for war by seeing highly complex, high acuity care,” said Wittick. “Our surgeons love it, they’re happy. It helps our relations between the U.S. and the U.K. It’s a win-win. We’d love to expand this program to all our physicians, nurses, and technicians.”
One of the reasons Wittick left active duty was because he felt his entrepreneurial spirit was stifled, he said. This decision led him to Duke and a goal to one day start his own company.
“Getting the opportunity to do something entrepreneurial while still serving in the military was a breath of fresh air,” said Wittick. “I’ve been very encouraged during my time in the Air Force Reserves, and in the active duty folks at Lakenheath, who had the vision to build something of value for patients across Europe. Together, we’re innovators.”