Members of the VCU and VCU Health delegation pose for a photo with Army representatives at the Pentagon after receiving the Army Community Partnership Award.
<br>Photo by Darrell K. Hudson, U.S. Army

U.S. Army recognizes VCU, VCU Health and Fort Lee community partnership with an award

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In the Pentagon, the building that symbolizes America’s military strength, Virginia Commonwealth University and VCU Health medical and teaching personnel last week received an Army Community Partnership Award, a salute to the health system’s commitment to strengthen ties between the military and the community.

The accolade was in recognition of a teaching partnership between VCU, VCU Health and Fort Lee in Prince George County, Virginia. Since August, Kenneth Williams, VCU Health paramedic program director, has been the lead instructor of paramedic education courses at Fort Lee. Through this partnership, students, both military and nonmilitary, gain clinical internship experience in the emergency room at VCU Medical Center and in other specialty areas, including obstetrics, pulmonary-respiratory and cardiology.

The partnership is one of seven similar partnerships throughout the country the Army recognized Dec. 4 for improving Army mission training, providing cost savings, expanding capability, creating efficiencies and improving communication and community relationships. Harinder Dhindsa, M.D., VCU Health chief of emergency medicine; Michel Aboutanos, M.D., VCU Medical Center trauma director; Basil Asay, assistant director of the VCU Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education; James Gould, CTCCE director; Alan Rossi, M.D., VCU School of Medicine assistant professor of surgery and Williams attended the award presentation, held in the Hall of Heroes. The event was hosted by the Hon. Ryan D. McCarthy, undersecretary of the Army.

VCU Health has a longstanding relationship with the military, Williams said, which includes training for medics who are part of special forces teams. When approached about offering paramedic education courses at Fort Lee, Williams said it was an obvious yes. Accepting the partnership award was validation that VCU Health’s efforts are making a noticeable difference.  

“We’re helping those in the program move up in their career path,” he said. “The current certifications [students] have will be phased out across the country soon. There is a need to move professionals from intermediate [certifications] to being able to work as a paramedic.”

Currently 24 individuals, a combination of Fort Lee medical workers and members of surrounding communities including Colonial Heights and Amelia County, are taking the paramedic education courses. Benefits of the alliance abound, said Col. Adam W. Butler, Fort Lee garrison commander, whose emergency services leaders at the post worked with Williams to develop the partnership.

“Less than a year from now, our medics will be qualified as paramedics, the highest level of emergency care provider. It’s also going to bring us into compliance with new national EMS provider standards a year ahead of a March 2019 deadline, and along the way is helping further solidify the excellent relationships we share with our existing mutual aid partners and VCU Health,” he said. “We think this partnership can also help increase the level of emergency care in our region and potentially statewide. Finally, the partnership benefits taxpayers, as having the course available at Fort Lee greatly reduces the amount of overtime pay that would be required to do this off-post, since our medics are able to complete most of the training while working their shifts.”

Ivan Bolden is the chief of Army partnerships at the Pentagon, and said highlighting these types of efforts shows how valuable the community and its military bases are to each other.   

“These exchanges highlight the goodness of the community in helping our nation’s sons and daughters and their families,” he said. “Seventy percent of our military families live in the community and only 30 percent live on post. We [the military] are a reflection of the community.”

We value our partnership with the military.

Through the collaboration, members of Fort Lee are taking steps to develop the base area into a field preceptor training site for emergent care students from VCU Health. Though Fort Lee has many partnerships with nonmilitary organizations, the collaboration with VCU Health is particularly important, Butler said because, “health, life and safety are a priority on Army installations.”

Aboutanos said VCU Health sees the chance to serve the military as equally important.

“We value our partnership with the military,” he said. “We know the impact of our distinctive mission is to teach and train those who serve our country. It is our vocation.”


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