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Home | Tag Archives: William Beaumont Army Medical Center

Tag Archives: William Beaumont Army Medical Center

WBAMC honored nationally for meritorious outcomes from American College of Surgeons

William Beaumont Army Medical Center was recently recognized by The American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program (ACS NSQIP) as one of seven military treatment facilities in the Department of Defense and 88 participating hospitals across that nation, that have achieved meritorious outcomes for surgical patient care in 2018.

As a participant in ACS NSQIP, WBAMC is required to track the outcomes of inpatient and outpatient surgical procedures and collect data that assesses patient safety and can be used to direct improvement in the quality of surgical care.

The ACS NSQIP recognition program commends a select group of hospitals for achieving a meritorious composite score in either an “All Cases” category or a category which includes only “High Risk” cases.

Risk-adjusted data from the July 2019 ACS NSQIP Semiannual Report, which presents data from the 2018 calendar year, were used to determine which hospitals demonstrated meritorious outcomes. WBAMC has been recognized on the “All Cases” Meritorious list.

“In an era that places military doctors for long periods in harm’s way, it is great to know that we accomplish both our deployed mission and our domestic mission with excellence, providing the very best care for our military families,” said Lt. Col. Eric Ahnfeldt, General Surgery Residency Program director and chief of Bariatric Surgery. “This recognition validates the quality care that WBAMC provides, which is above and beyond many other medical centers.”

Each composite score was determined through a different weighted formula combining eight outcomes.

The outcome performances related to patient management were in the following eight clinical areas: mortality, unplanned intubation, ventilator > 48 hours, renal failure, cardiac incidents (cardiac arrest and myocardial infarction); respiratory (pneumonia); SSI (surgical site infections-superficial and deep incisional and organ-space SSIs); or urinary tract infection. WBAMC achieved the distinction “All Cases” list based on their outstanding composite quality score across these eight areas.

“It is the aggregate outcomes regarding these complications and shows that all our services exceeded national averages in quality and safety,” said Maj. C. Rees Porta, Chief of general surgery and the NSQIP Surgeon Champion. “There is no better metric to get a 30,000 foot view of an institutions commitment to quality surgical care than this.”
WBAMC services such as orthopedics, neurosurgery, vascular, cardiothoracic, plastic surgery, general surgery, bariatric surgery, colo-rectal, gynecology, and ENT are all a part of the ACS NSQIP recognition and evaluation process.

“I am very proud of our staff for achieving this significant distinction,” said Col. Michael S. Oshiki, commander of WBAMC. “This achievement illustrates our support of the Defense Health Agency’s commitment to better care, which is one of the four tenets of the DHA Quadruple Aim.”

ACS NSQIP is the only nationally validated quality improvement program that measures and enhances the care of surgical patients. This program measures the actual surgical results 30 days postoperatively as well as risk adjusts patient characteristics to compensate for differences among patient populations and acuity levels.

The goal of ACS NSQIP is to reduce surgical morbidity (infection or illness related to a surgical procedure) and surgical mortality (death related to a surgical procedure) and to provide a firm foundation for surgeons to apply what is known as the “best scientific evidence” to the practice of surgery.

Furthermore, when adverse effects from surgical procedures are reduced and/or eliminated, a reduction in health care costs follows. ACS NSQIP is a major program of the American College of Surgeons and is currently used in nearly 850 adult and pediatric hospitals.

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational organization of surgeons that was founded in 1913 to raise the standards of surgical practice and to improve the care of the surgical patient.

The College is dedicated to the ethical and competent practice of surgery. Its achievements have significantly influenced the course of scientific surgery in America and have established it as an important advocate for all surgical patients. The College has more than 82,000 members and it is the largest organization of surgeons in the world.

Maj. Daniel Nelson, surgical oncologist, instructs medical residents during a bilateral mastectomy at WBAMC, April 22, 2019.

Story+Photo courtesy William Beaumont Army Medical Center/Facebook

WBAMC’s Women’s Equality Day celebrates diversity and inclusion

Each year on August 26, military personnel gather to celebrate the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed women full voting rights.

In celebrating Women’s Equality day, William Beaumont Army Medical Center recognizes not only the significance of women’s contributions to the medical profession, but also the value of a diverse and inclusive environment.

The WBAMC family celebrated the historic day in the Clinic Assembly Room on August 15, 2019. The guest speaker for the occasion was Army Sgt. Maj. Tammy Bosier, senior enlisted advisor to the deputy commander of WBAMC.

“The right to vote is kind of like water, you don’t miss it until you’re thirsty,” said Bosier, who is currently attending the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy virtually while continuing full-time in her position at WBAMC. “When you’re not counted as an equal, it seers your soul and if you haven’t experienced it, you can’t imagine it.”

While the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920 giving women the right to vote nationally, states often had other laws, Bosier added.

“Women had the right to vote, they didn’t; however, have the right in every state to enter the voting booth without their husband, meaning that men could go into the voting booth and tell the women how to vote. They didn’t have the right to own property, solely in their name, if they inherited property, it had to go in their husbands names,” said Bosier, who joined the military in 1986. “If women married a foreign national they would have to give up their citizenship, while men did not. Women weren’t allowed to seek contraception without the permission of their husbands.”

Throughout history women have fought for equality on many fronts – even the military, Bosier told the audience. Women have served in every conflict, usually returning to civilian life once the conflict ended. All that changed when the more than 400,000 women serving during World War II – some became prisoners of war, many received medals and citations for their contributions – fought for their right to serve, return to their prewar jobs, and receive veterans’ benefits.

William Beaumont Army Medical Center staff recognize not only the significance of women’s contributions to the medical profession, but also the value of a diverse and inclusive environment during a Women’s Equality Day Observance, August 15, 2019, in the clinical assembly room of the main hospital. | Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey

Some of the key points in history: In 1976 women were allowed to attend the U.S. military academy at West Point, in 1978 women in the U.S. Navy and Marines were allowed to serve on non-combat ships as technicians, nurses, and officers, in 1993 Congress authorizes women to serve on combat ships, in 2000 U.S. Navy Capt. Kathleen McGrath becomes the first women to command a U.S. Navy warship, in 2005 Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester becomes the first woman awarded the Silver Star for combat action, in 2013 women were granted the right to serve in direct ground combat roles, and in 2019, a U.S. District judge ruled that requiring all men to register for a military draft, while excluding women, was unconstitutional.

“We live in exciting times, the only person that can limit you is yourself. We can make excuses or we can make things happen,” said Bosier, who deployed to Iraq in 2003. “We’re allowed opportunities that our grandmothers only dreamed of.”

Col. Michael S. Oshiki, commander of WBAMC, agreed these are exciting times.

“Our connection in Army medicine to women in uniform is quite significant, there are 200,000 women servicing in uniform.

The number one field: Medicine – 40,000 women in the healthcare field across the services,” Oshiki said. “And it’s not just in uniform,

there is another 200,000 women who serve as GS civilians. Medicine is the second highest field, with 86,000.”

Military medicine has a long history of women who have become icons, Oshiki continued. He named two in particular from the American Civil War, Dr. Mary Walker was the first female surgeon employed by the U.S. Army and only women to receive the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor for bravery. The Dr. Mary E. Walker Award is named after her. The other was Clara Barton, known as the ‘Angel of the Battlefield. She risked her life to bring supplies and support to Soldiers on the field during the war and was the progenitor of the American Red Cross, created in 1881. She served as its president until 1904.

At the end, both Oshiki and Bosier asked participants to reflect on what they can do to create a more equitable environment.

“I want you to do one kind thing today,” Bosier asked.

Col. Michael S. Oshiki, commander of William Beaumont Army Medical Center, Command Sgt. Maj. Janell Ray (right), and Sgt. Maj. Tammy Bosier (middle), senior enlisted advisor to the deputy commander of WBAMC, take a slice out of inequality during the WBAMC Women’s Equality Day Observance, August 15, 2019, in the dining facility of the main hospital. | Photo by Capt. Olivia Cobiskey
William Beaumont Army Medical Center

Author:  Capt. Olivia Cobiskey – William Beaumont Army Medical Center

WBAMC welcomes additions to newborn nursery team

At U.S. military installations across the globe, the moving season has arrived where military families arrive at a new duty station for their next assignment.

The WBAMC active duty medical personnel who provide care to Fort Bliss and El Paso, Texas beneficiaries are no different.

The permanent change of station (PCS) season affects military treatment facilities every year and access to care decreases a little bit as leaders and staff wait for replacements to arrive or new hires to be orientated.

WBAMC’s Women’s Health and Pediatric services have come up with an approach to provide the same access to high-quality care in the labor and delivery department, one of the most active departments for the hospital.

Dr. Stacey Frazier, chief of inpatient pediatrics, has reinforced her service with family practice physicians to improve coverage of the newborn nursery and neonatal service.

Over time, newborn data in the department has shown that the summer season is the busiest time of the year for births at WBAMC. Adding the family physicians to the neonatal care team will ensure the continuation of care for parents and their newborn(s).

“It’s a traditional family medicine practice that is done in smaller communities,” said Frazier. “Our family practice physicians are fully qualified and have gone through neonatal resuscitation certification.”

As of right now, WBAMC has three pediatricians who will be working with five family medicine doctors that will cover night shifts. This new model began early in the month of June, 2019 and Frazier hopes that by the fall, when PCS season slows down, there will be even more pediatricians and family physicians available to cover every shift.

“It’s a win-win because not only are we continuing care, the family physician doctors are refreshing their family practice skills by applying them in the inpatient setting,” said Frazier. “They will be able to continue these skills which are critical for them throughout their Army career.”

Ultimately, patients should not notice a difference in the level of care. WBAMC will continue to provide patient-friendly access to high-quality care.

Author:  Amabilia Payen  – William Beaumont Army Medical Center

Fort Bliss couple’s loss turns to legacy at WBAMC

On Sept. 22, 2018, Ryder Lucas Barnett was delivered at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. His passing was part of the one in four pregnancies that end in loss in the United States.

It’s estimated that 19 percent of the adult population has experienced the death of a child (this includes miscarriages through adult-aged children). After the loss of Ryder, Kelsey and Capt. Hunter Barnett knew they had to do something to memorialize their son.

“Ever since I lost him I’ve told myself, through my faith, family, friends, and everyone here at WBAMC who helped me, I’m going to use my pain to help others,” said Kelsey, a National Guard veteran. “It definitely helps to use my pain to help someone else.”

Since September, the Barnetts have fundraised and donated multiple casting kits for use with fetal demises. Still the couple wanted to do more for the staff who helped them get through their difficult loss, so they partnered with a nonprofit organization to donate a cooling device, which dons a placard memorializing Ryder, designed to prolong parents’ time with babies who suffer fetal demise.

Because of their size, decomposition begins quickly in infants, reducing the time available for parents to spend with them. The Barnetts’ gift to WBAMC cools and preserves the body longer, allowing parents to spend more time with them.

1st Lt. Hunter Barnett, an operations officer with the 72nd Military Police Detachment, 93rd Military Police Battalion, Fort Bliss, Texas, and wife Kelsey Barnett, present a plaque and cooling device. | Photo by Marcy Sanchez
William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

“If that piece of equipment gets used it means someone has lost a child,” said Hunter, an operations officer with the 72nd Military Police Detachment, 93rd Military Police Battalion, at Fort Bliss, Texas. “One of the first things me and my wife talked about when (Ryder passed) was, it doesn’t matter if it happens at 20, 14, or 35 weeks; it’s still your daughter or son. They had a name, they had a life you expected them to have, then all that’s gone in an instant. I hope this equipment never gets used.”

Fourteen weeks into her pregnancy, Kelsey’s doctor found it difficult to hear a heartbeat when performing an ultrasound. Further examination revealed her baby had passed.

“I knew something was wrong because it was just really still. The worst words I have ever heard were, ‘there’s no heart beat’,” said the 24-year-old mother of three. “You feel like you’re stuck in place in the world, there’s no words to describe how it feels to hear that you’re baby has no heartbeat.”

Hours later, Ryder was delivered after 14 weeks, 2 days of pregnancy.

“When I got here, on the day I had Ryder, the staff took me to a back room,” said Kelsey. “For someone going through that, you don’t want to hear baby’s crying and the staff respected that they honored my wishes about that. From the time I got here until I had Ryder and we left, I always had someone checking on me, staying with me, praying with me. I’m very thankful I had the nurses here at WBAMC to help me.”

While there is no prescribed method of grieving after a loss, according to studies by the device manufacturer, families can handle infant loss better if they are able to spend more time with their baby.

“(The device) could have at least added a few more hours with him,” said Kelsey.

“Fort Bliss has been home for three and a half years, we had two children born in this hospital. So it really means a lot to be able to give back to our community, to the hospital where our children were born,” said Hunter, 25, native of Prosperity, South Carolina. “One of the things they focus on in the military is servant leadership, (the donation) is Kelsey and my way of doing that. I’m proud of her for coming up with this. She channeled everything she’s feeling into something good, that’s how I think everyone should handle bad experiences.”

William Beaumont Army Medical Center is the first Military Treatment Facility in the Department of Defense to receive the device, according to the device manufacturer.

The device was donated on April 30, 2019.

Author: Marcy Sanchez  William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

Eight Army nurses impact hospital’s history, future

Almost twenty years ago, several Army nurses at William Beaumont Army Medical Center worked together on the surgical and medical wards, depending on each other to meet their missions.

Today, eight nurses who once donned gold bars now wear silver oak leafs on their chest and still depend on one another for mission success.

Lt. Cols. Marta Artiga, Lambert Cabales, Rich Clark, Sarah Huml, Greg Lara, Dahlia Pacheco, Jerry Rivera Santiago, and Perry Ruiz, all worked at WBAMC in the late 90s, early 2000s, on the Surgical, Medical Wards and Operating Rooms. Twenty years later this collection of Army Nurses reflect on their careers, missions and the impact they had, and continue to have at WBAMC.

“They call us the mafia, in a good way,” said Clark, chief of Information Management Division and chief information officer/ chief medical information officer at WBAMC. “Not only do we have a relationship between all of us, but we have a relationship to the organization.”
The O-5 Mafia, a reference to their rank and pay grade, call WBAMC home, where they learned nursing skills, selfless service, and the value of friendship.

Strong bonds developed with peers prepared us for our Army careers, said Cabales, chief of Perioperative Nursing Services at WBAMC.
That preparation is evident as the Soldiers advanced their careers in the medical field, while continuing education beyond their nursing degree.

Artiga, clinical nurse officer in charge of Same Day Surgery Services at WBAMC, first began her journey in the Army National Guard before commissioning and her first assignment as a nurse at WBAMC’s ninth floor, or Medical Ward, in 1999.

“I think the beginning was very interesting because I wanted to be stationed in Texas so I asked the recruiter for Texas, they placed me at WBAMC,” said Artiga, a native of El Salvador. “We all had a very tense time in the beginning, to a point where (the workload) built us up and peers listened to each other and took care of each other.”

Following her tour at WBAMC, Artiga, who had previously deployed to Saudi Arabia, spent time around the world, eventually deploying in support of Operation Iraq Freedom. But it was a training deployment that cemented Artiga’s appreciation for the Army and other Soldiers.

“My mother passed away while I was on deployment (to Iraq), so I didn’t want to go back to El Salvador,” said Artiga. “I got back with a sense of guilt of not being bedside with my mother.”

Years after returning, Artiga took the opportunity to deploy on a training mission to Honduras, a neighboring country of El Salvador. Her mission was to prepare Honduran Armed Forces for deployment.

“It was very rewarding because I needed to close the loop in the country where I was born. The most important thing that I realized was I was going with my family (other Soldiers),” said Artiga. “I think (my mother) would be proud and happy because we went to train Soldiers who were going to deploy to Iraq. It was very rewarding and about closing the loop with my family. After that I felt that the U.S. was the country I would definitely defend and protect.”

Camaraderie, is how most of the group describes their relationships with all having their unique experiences lead them to their current roles as leaders.

“For me, it’s the memories of coming back, full circle and being with the same folks we were once with,” said Cabales, a native of Oklahoma City. “I’ll never exchange the experiences we’ve had here and that we continue to have because they are my extended family. There’s some things that you can’t just replace and those are the memories that we shared of knowing that we won’t ask junior (Soldiers) things that we haven’t done ourselves.”

Cabales, who was at WBAMC’s Medical Ward in 2001, believes his first taste of health care at WBAMC well-prepared him for future assignments, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.

“It was a struggle, but every assignment that I’ve been through (since leaving WBAMC) have not been as hard as what we’ve (the group) been through,” said Cabales. “For me, knowing their work ethic, their personalities, when the command tells us to do something, I know it will get done. Just knowing we still have each other’s back, that’s why I stay in the military.”

Rivera Santiago, a native of Coamo, Puerto Rico, serves as WBAMC’s clinical nursing officer in charge of the Operating Room. First starting his Army career as an enlisted Soldier, Rivera Santiago jumped at the opportunity to take part in an enlisted to commissioned program.

“The reason I joined was to learn English, to travel and to get an education,” said Rivera Santiago, who has twice deployed to Iraq. “(Being assigned to the Medical Ward) was one of the best things that have happened to me, because it prepared me in the basics of nursing.
“I grew up having everything through the Army, before that I came from a poor environment and now I’m at a place where I don’t have to worry about those kind of things,” said Rivera Santiago. “Not that they just gave it to me, you really have to work for it, but it’s there. I like the options I’ve had through the Army.”

Getting the opportunity to meet his peers at WBAMC and see them once again after so many years, is one of Rivera Santiago’s greatest takeaways.

Not all the Soldiers started their nursing careers at WBAMC. Pacheco, a native of Pittsburg, California, was first introduced to Army Medicine at Tripler Army Medical Center, in Hawaii, where she served as a medical-surgical nurse. Following her tour in Hawaii, Pacheco added emergency room nursing to her skill set before landing at WBAMC.

“My family came to the U.S. when I was 12. We were immigrants, we didn’t have any money for college,” said Pacheco, a clinical nurse specialist at WBAMC’s Perioperative Nursing Services. “I would have been stuck in California in a community college, so (the Army) was definitely a good opportunity.”

Pacheco, who has deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, spent time as an Operating Room nurse at WBAMC after a brief stint out of the Army. Additionally, Pacheco’s relationships with some of the lieutenant colonels at WBAMC precede their time in uniform.

“We were both Army ROTC cadets from the University of San Francisco,” said Huml, deputy commander for Quality and Safety at WBAMC, discussing her relationship with Pacheco. “(WBAMC) has a special place in my heart. I was married here, and started my family here.”

Huml, who deployed to Iraq with Cabales and Pacheco as part of the 31st Combat Support Hospital, says her interest in nursing started as a teenager.

“I had the opportunity to volunteer in rural Mexico as a teenager, and decided that nursing was my calling,” said Huml. “When I was a nursing student I saw the ROTC cadets rappelling off the side of the nursing building and was recruited into the Army ROTC program.
“Nursing was my calling, and after my combat experience with the 31st CSH, Army Nursing was my calling,” said Huml.

“The relationships I have made, that started here at WBAMC, were also the reason I have stayed in as an Army Nurse. I know that I will be retiring this summer, but will have this connection to my Army family forever. Throughout my career I have made meaningful relationships which inspired me to serve.”

A deeper understanding of medicine led Lt. Col. Perry Ruiz, chief of Nursing Operations at WBAMC, to a career in nursing.

“Whenever I used to take my wife and our baby to the doctor I never really understood what was happening. But I did realize that if I knew what nurses know then I could take better care of my own family,” said Ruiz, a native of El Paso, Texas.

Ruiz, who is on his third assignment at WBAMC, also got his start on the Medical Ward in 1998. After two deployments to Afghanistan, Ruiz shares one of his fondest memories from his deployment, which still resonates with him.

“What started out as a calm night with (a 10-year-old Afghan boy) talking quietly with his grandpa ended up being loud and chaotic with all the bright lights turned on. (The boy) went into cardiac arrest, we did everything we could to save him but nothing worked,” said Ruiz, discussing some of the grim realities of the field. “We all learn what to do. We all become technically proficient. But what your patients need is not someone who is merely technically proficient, you need to sincerely care.”

Ruiz who shares memories with Rivera Santiago, Clark, Lara, and Artiga states he never expected to reunite with his fellow nurses at this point in his career.

“We were all nurses. We were all (lieutenants). This was our first tour as officers. We did bond but never expected a reunion like this,” said Ruiz.

When Ruiz joined the team of nurses on WBAMC’s Medical Ward, he didn’t join a group of strangers as some Soldiers do during their first assignment, a familiar face was there with him. Lt. Col. Greg Lara, chief of Hospital Education and Training, met Ruiz during Officer Basic Training, after serving seven years as a combat medic.

Lara, a native of Berthoud, Colorado, also too advantage of the Army’s enlisted to commissioning program and started as a staff nurse in 1998.

“I like making a difference in patients’ lives and fellow service members’ lives,” said Lara. “I still enjoy (nursing), which is why I continue to serve. The people you meet, the opportunities are abundant. I really enjoy educating, mentoring, guiding Soldiers, whether they are NCOs, officers or junior enlisted.”

Taking a different approach to the nursing field, Clark, a native of Anderson, South Carolina, also began on the Medical Ward, but an interest in the technical aspects of nursing led the former air defender to nursing informatics.

“I did everything that I wanted to do as a kid (in Air Defense Artillery), my mom is a nurse, and stepfather is a physician, so I told myself that’s the best way to go,” said Clark. “Even though I work in (information technology), (being a nurse) helps bridge the gap between the physicians and IT. We look at IT from a clinical perspective now, to support the clinicians.”

While plans for some of these senior nurses are to retire soon, others wish to continue serving the organization which has sown their careers and sewed their relationships which have lasted over two decades.

“I love coming to work every day, no day is ever the same. For us it feels like yesterday that we were in the Operating Room and (Medical Ward),” said Clark. “It’s not just the camaraderie, but it’s the mission too. We’re taking care of America’s sons and daughters. It’s not about the money, it’s about the role and the impact that you can make.”

Author: Marcy Sanchez  – William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office 

WBAMC Credentials chief acquires elite credential

Education doesn’t end with a medical degree for more than 1,700 medical providers at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, it’s a continuous practice which adds to patient care, safety and the evolution of scope of practice.

Patients can rest assure their provider is credentialed and privileged to provide the care they do because of WBAMC’s Credentialing staff.

Leading the charge is the department’s chief, Michelle Vera, who recently completed a Leadership Certificate Program from her profession’s national organization, the first medical services professional in El Paso to do so.

Medical credentialing allows patients to be confident placing their care and trust in the hands of their health care providers. The practice goes beyond verifying the academic degrees plastered on provider’s walls are authentic by tracking provider’s training, experience, and Continuing Medical Education (CME) maintaining their clinical proficiency.

Vera, a native of El Paso, Texas, has worked in the field for more than two decades watching the profession evolve along with medical care.

“Back when I started in 1996, you couldn’t fake a diploma or certification, today things are easier to manipulate,” said Vera.

Vera’s recent certificate prepares her to lead her department in effective negotiations, corporate responsibility and compliance and financial matters.

“With this certification, it really has to do with leadership and medical staff services and budget negotiations, ethics, changes in healthcare and communications with professionals,” said Vera. “With changes in technology and the profession, (medical services professions) started adding more training and requirements to move toward (better identification of) quality and competent providers.”

According to Vera, credentialing differs from privileging as credentialing is the process of verifying qualifications, leading to providers’ privileges, limiting them in their scope of practice.

“In credentialing, we verify the credentials of providers which are (not limited to) licenses and work history for the past 10 years,” said Vera. “Privileging, is when we match up their training and experience to what their scope of practice will be here. Providers apply for privileges every two years, so we can verify what they’ve been doing (in clinical practice).”

Through these processes, Vera and her staff provide patients with the security of knowing their providers have been verified to be clinically capable of providing them safe patient care.

“We manage doctors, social workers, clinical pharmacists, dietitians, and anyone who has a license (including Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical/ Vocational Nurses and others),” said Vera. “We ensure they are trained to do a certain procedure or therapy while following Joint Commission recommendations, Army Regulations and state laws.”

In recent years many medical breakthroughs have been undertaken by WBAMC staff. Vera’s team manages the requirements necessary for new procedures to be performed at WBAMC, to include establishing credentialing criteria, and prerequisites for performing the procedure.

For Vera, who also holds two other elite certifications in her field, her recent certificate is another notch on her belt reminding her of the trust patients put in their providers and the important functions of the credentialing staff.

“These certificates are evolving as the profession evolves,” said Vera.

Author:  Marcy Sanchez  – William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

WBAMC Labor and Delivery’s Quick Reaction Saves Newborn’s Life

For most women, pregnancy is an incredible 40-week journey ending with the delivery of baby. But it’s not always that easy or predictable with possible complications threatening the health of mother, baby or both.

Recently, medical professionals at William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s Labor and Delivery section skillfully dealt with a rare complication when a laboring mom experienced an umbilical cord prolapse, leading staff to quickly respond to the obstetrical emergency via an emergency cesarean section.

A cord prolapse occurs when the umbilical cord prolapses, or drops, through the open cervix into the vagina ahead of the baby which may block fetal-placental circulation resulting in loss of oxygen to the fetus and possible stillbirth if not treated immediately.

“(The patient) was already here and admitted because we were inducing labor,” said Diana Ortiz, charge nurse during the shift of the incident. “The doctor went in there to (rupture) the membrane and the cord came out, he was trying to make her go into labor.”

Although the artificial rupture of membranes is a common procedure performed to accelerate or induce labor, there are always risks involved. According to studies by the Cleveland Clinic, about one in every 500 pregnancies may result in an umbilical cord prolapse, increasing the importance of staff readiness.

“Rupturing of the amniotic sack is just part of the process to help a mom who’s not going into labor any other way, and there are risks associated with that,” said Maj. Michael Swift, the obstetrician-gynecologist performing the procedure.

Obstetrical emergencies, such as cord prolapse, are routinely simulated at WBAMC’s L&D section through the use of medical manikins to evaluate staff communication during emergencies, and improve interdisciplinary and clinical performance.

“We do practice simulations but this was beyond simulations, it was just a really, really, solid team,” said Swift. “It was fast, it was extremely fast. Everyone was well organized it was like an absolute perfect orchestra.”

According to the staff, as Swift called for assistance after the prolapse, a team of nurses quickly prepared the operating room for the emergency cesarean section, while another nurse jumped on the gurney with the patient to assist with alleviating pressure on the umbilical cord due to the baby dropping.

“The teamwork was dynamic, and worked out so well,” said Ortiz, a seven-year L&D nursing veteran. “Everybody ran and did something, it synchronized really well, and right at change of shift.”

According to Ortiz, shift changes are usually a more chaotic time during care as outgoing staff are occupied with the transfer of patient information to incoming staff and other activities.

“I’m still catching my breath because everything just fell into place from (umbilical cord prolapse) to (emergency cesarean section),” said Ortiz.

For Swift, who is only two years out of his medical residency, the only other real-world experience with an umbilical cord prolapse was during his residency. He credits the team of nurses for their quick reaction, turning a potentially fatal situation to an otherwise successful delivery.

“These nurses are extremely experienced and have been doing this for years, but it does demonstrate the importance of simulations, because these are practiced routinely,” said swift.

As a result of their actions, staff members were presented commander’s coins following the incident. Staff members include: Santa Ware, Maria Martell, Lisa Obermeyer, Yesenia Ruelas and Jennifer Ruelas.

Within six minutes, the team’s actions went from the umbilical cord prolapse to delivery of the baby with no further complications. Two weeks following discharge, during a follow up appointment the family were content and thankful for the rapid response and teamwork at WBAMC.

“There’s always great crew work, if something happens everybody knows what to do,” said Ortiz.

Author: Marcy Sanchez  – William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

Bound by Blood, Serving by Choice; Brothers Meet Once Again at Fort Bliss

Eight years since last seeing each other, two brothers from Central Valley, California, cross paths at a remote West Texas location, nestled between mountain ranges and riddled with desert shrub.

The setting is all too familiar for the pair, which have spent more years apart than together, yet they gather whenever given chance.

James and David Mendoza, fraternal twins born five minutes apart, enlisted after high school to find their calling after gradually realizing their own individual identities, as evidenced by their high school athletics clubs, James participated in water sports while David stuck to running.

A desire for something greater drove the brothers toward service after high school, with David enlisting in the Army Reserves while James enlisted in the Army’s active-duty component. Today, Maj. James Mendoza leads manpower and administrative functions for the 79th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, a California Army National Guard unit out of San Diego, California, while Col. David Mendoza heads inpatient services at William Beaumont Army Medical Center, out of El Paso, Texas.

“Last time we crossed paths like this was in May of 2010,” said David, deputy commander of inpatient services at WBAMC. “I was stationed at Fort Hood, (James) was mobilizing for a deployment with the National Guard and we happened to be with each other for a few days before he left.”

Although the brothers occasionally see each other at family functions, such as holidays with their parents back in California, service to country has absorbed the brothers’ time.

“We’re basically two separate worlds now, other than being part of the Army,” said David.

For James, Army service started as an aviation maintenance technician in the 80s.

“As I was progressing through the enlisted ranks I finished up my (college) education,” said James, the older of the brothers. “When I got that completed, a door opened to get commissioned, so off I went in the National Guard and started as a finance, logistics and human resources officer.”

Although James transitioned from active duty to the National Guard, he’s remained Active Guard Reserve, or on full-time National Guard duty, since donning the uniform.

David’s initial Military Occupational Specialty as a combat medic in the Army Reserves inspired him toward earning a nursing degree and commission afterwards.

“I don’t know a whole lot about the medical world and he doesn’t know much about logistics,” said James.

“There’s really not a whole lot that separates us, or that we have in common,” adds David.

While their desire to become their own person drove the brothers toward service, emulating others who served before them was also a factor in serving their country.

“Our dad was a retired Soldier in the National Guard, and we have uncles who served in Vietnam, so we have a family tradition of serving,” said David. “Our family background of service and looking for a way to pay for college, possibly get into a career we could use later on in life were motivators to enlist.”

Their careers have led them through more than a half-dozen deployments, and multiple duty stations for David, but the brothers are still finding time to discuss current and future endeavors with one another.

“Life happens. I move around, he stays (in California), and we don’t ever get the opportunity to cross paths,” said David. “It’s nice to have this window of opportunity to hang out and reconnect, if only for a few days.”

While not having too much in common, both brothers do agree one of the largest challenges they’ve had to overcome during decades of service are families dealing with deployments.

“We share the same sentiments of any military family of having to be gone, (deployments are) a challenge for the spouses,” said David.

“It’s just part of what we do, but it’s time away from family,” said James.

While discussions about life after their service haven’t began, the two are glad to discuss the journey they have been through leading to a rare get together for the brothers.

“It’s great to be at the end of our careers,” said David. “It’s great to have this time to capstone the last 25-30 years to look back and at the same time look forward.”

Author: Marcy Sanchez –  William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

Study Reveals Compliance of Biomarker Testing for NSCLC at WBAMC

William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s Department of Pathology recently conducted a study to monitor compliance rate and to gauge turnaround times of biomarker testing for non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC).

The study showed that WBAMC is compliant with national evidence-based guidelines.

The study looked at dozens of cases involving NSCLC which required biomarker testing from 2015 to 2018.

“At one of our quarterly Commission on Cancer meetings, it was suggested to perform a study to monitor WBAMC compliance rate of biomarker testing for Non-Small Cell lung cancers. This is one of the Commission on Cancer Standards. With this study, not only we can evaluate our compliance rate of biomarker testing for NSCLC, but also we can investigate the turnaround times (TAT) of these tests that are sent to Reference Laboratories. The turnaround time measures how fast we can get those test results back to the physician who ordered the biomarker tests once we send them,” said Dr. Domingo Rosario, pathologist, Department of Pathology, WBAMC. “Ideally it would be two weeks or less, the study was to evaluate if that is possible or not.”

According to research published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide, with 84 percent of those composed of NSCLC cases. Timely and accurate diagnosis as well as prompt biomarker testing are important factors that will help the medical team decide the best treatment approach for the patient. These samples would theoretically lead to a quicker response to potentially life-threatening cancers.

“What we noticed is that two weeks or less is not realistic TAT, because the sample is tested at different sections of the reference lab, and the average TAT was 24 days,” said Rosario, who authored the study.

While no guidelines exist for turnaround times of biomarker testing for NSCLC, the study does assist pathologists and clinicians provide realistic expectations for test results, in addition to improving communications with patients regarding diagnosis timeframes.

“Once we get (test results), we will communicate those results immediately to the clinician via emails and through addendums,” said Rosario, a native of Jayuya, Puerto Rico. “Different samples require different molecular tests, we do what the clinician asks for once the cases are discussed at tumor boards.”

By keeping communication open with clinicians, the results of biomarker tests are relayed one by one, as they are received, until the complete and final reference lab report is received by the WBAMC Anatomic Pathology Section. “For example PD-L1 immunohistochemical stain results may be available before EGFR and ALK testing, so we will communicate that PD-L1 result first, so there is not a delay in patient management” said Rosario. This allows immediate options for treatment to be discussed with patients, consequently increasing survival possibility.

“We are doing really well in the hospital even with minimally-invasive procedures”. “The study showed that biopsy samples from Interventional Radiology and surgery, and even cytology specimens (by Pulmonology team) are yielding really good material for these tests,” said Rosario. “The trend in patient management is to have a tissue biopsy via minimally-invasive procedures. Based on our study, even tiny biopsies that we got were adequate for testing.”

According to Rosario, because samples from minimally-invasive procedures have proved effective, it may eliminate the need for larger resections to procure samples for biomarkers testing for NSCLC and other diseases. Rosario adds the effectiveness of such testing is a testament to the high-quality patient care clinicians provide in getting a tissue sample.

“Sometimes the patient may not even undergo the resection and they can start treatment based off the tiny sample that we get,” said Rosario. “It’s really good for (patients and clinicians) because if (results show) a positive lymph node which indicates metastatic adenocarcinoma and clinicians know the patient won’t need a resection then they can start treating with chemotherapy based on biomarkers results, just with a few cells.”

More importantly, the study reveals 100 percent compliance, over the past four years, for testing of all NSCLC which require biomarker testing, meaning all samples were adequately tested.

“With this study it shows that no patients slipped through the cracks,” said Rosario. “That’s something really positive for the hospital.”

Future initiatives may result in more diverse studies involving colon, melanoma, and other non-lung cancer cases to study trends in compliance and turnaround times.

Author:  Marcy Sanchez – William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

William Beaumont AMC Conference Validates Leadership Impact in Medicine

Each year, William Beaumont Army Medical Center holds a medical conference to discuss latest initiatives across its health care footprint, which spans from West Texas to Southern New Mexico.

The conference also offers health care professionals the opportunity for Continuing Medical Education (CME) to maintain competence and learn about new and developing areas in medicine and WBAMC.

This year’s conference welcomed retired Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker, 42nd Surgeon General of the U.S. Army and former commanding general of U.S. Army Medical Command, and retired Maj. Gen. Carla Hawley-Bowland, former WBAMC commander (2000-2002) and first female physician general officer in the Army.

“(I want) to encourage people who have talent as senior managers and leaders,” said Schoomaker, who is now the director of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences Leader and Leadership Education and Development Program (USU LEAD). “Soldiers should not pass up the opportunity to lead well and step in to these important roles at this time in the history of WBAMC.”

WBAMC health care providers are required to obtain 50 CME credits to remain credentialed at the hospital, with opportunities available both in-house and through medical conferences abroad. During the conference the importance of leadership in clinical settings was highlighted.

“Both our keynote speakers are general officers and physicians, so we get leaders in the Army and leaders in medicine during the conference,” said Maj. Bin Wang, chief of Nuclear Medicine and director of Continuing Medical Education at WBAMC. “It’s a good day for a lot of medical staff and support staff to optimize training.”

Schoomaker, a practicing hematologist, discussed the impact good leaders may have on an organization and the consequences of challenging oneself.

“Leaders create vision, inspire others and help those they are leading remove obstacles to get to their objectives, that’s what leaders do,” said Schoomaker, who headed the Army’s Medical Command from 2007-2011. “Every doctor, nurse, (physical therapist), (orthopedic) technician, is concerned whatever they came into medicine to do is going to be lost if they take on other challenges (roles). Humans are made to be challenged, to take calculated risks. You can’t do that if you stay in a role you’re comfortable in.”

The event also included discussions on physician self-care, patient safety and experiences, medical ethics and appropriate contracting actions in medical settings. In an overview of current efforts designed to meet Regional Health Command-Central initiatives, which oversees WBAMC operations, WBAMC’s Simulation Center performed a simulated burn casualty scenario with an emphasis on current available forward-thinking capabilities to train health care staff in practices different from normal operations.

The scenario, and others like it, will support RHC-C’s Individual Critical Task List (ICTL), an emphasis to measure wartime clinical readiness of health care providers to better support battlefield medicine.

According to Wang, the conference also served to remind health care professionals to think about their own mental and physical wellbeing, a focus of Hawley-Bowland’s speech.

“If the audience can get some pointers from the presenters who have vast experience not just in the military but in the medical field, they can improve their patient care and their own care,” said Wang.

Over 450 health care professionals attended the conference, an event coordinated by WBAMC staff members: Lt. Col. Eric Weber, acting chief medical officer, Oralia Nido, CME coordinator, John Duggan, audio/visual technician, and Anna Stewart, executive assistant to WBAMC commander.

“What we do in our hospitals every day is a live-fire exercise,” said Schoomaker. “That’s what we do as caregivers.”

Author:  Marcy Sanchez – William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

William Beaumont AMC Nurses Recognized for Care, Compassion

It’s been one year since the first Light the Way Award was presented to a pair of nurses at William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

Since then, dozens of nominations have been submitted detailing compassionate and heroic tales of nursing encounters by many who appreciate nurses, from physicians to patients.

The award is designed to recognize a broader range of nurses at WBAMC, to include Registered Nurses, Licensed Vocational Nurses, nursing assistants/ aids, medics and technicians.

On November 15, two active-duty Soldiers joined the ranks of Light the Way Award recipients, solidifying the impact nurses have made for Soldiers, families and other beneficiaries across the WBAMC footprint.

“Growing up I lived in a house with a nurse (mother) and I told myself that I would never be a nurse,” said 1st Lt. Christina Chipman, staff nurse, Medical telemetry ward, WBAMC. “It wasn’t something I ever really desired to do, but when I was in college I was in school for human biology and realized I wanted to do something more practical where I could be at bedside with a patient and graduated with a nursing degree. I haven’t looked back since.”

In 2017, Chipman made a large difference in one Soldier’s recovery during his healing process from suffering multiple small-arms fire injuries in Afghanistan while in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. According to the Soldier, in a time of confusion and fear, Chipman took it upon herself to ease family members and explain every medical procedure in detail. Although multiple nurses attended the Soldier during his care at WBAMC, Chipman’s compassion and care stood out.

The second Soldier nominated was Maj. Lena Fabian, certified nurse midwife, Department of Women’s Health, WBAMC. According to Fabian’s nomination, she went above and beyond by helping the Labor and Delivery Section after being done with scheduled work. Fabian’s selflessness made even more of an impact as the section had an influx of patient admissions and was short-staffed.

“(Nursing) is about gaining trust and providing the quality care the patient requires at that time,” said Fabian, a native of Painesville, Ohio. “I work in (obstetrics) so a lot of times there are happy situations. Times when families are expecting their first, second or third child.”

While only two nurses are recognized each quarter, all nominees are credited for their contributions toward providing high-quality patient care. The award is in honor of Florence Nightingale’s use of a lantern to check on patients throughout the night, dubbing her “The Lady with the Lamp.”

“Nursing to me means providing quality, compassionate care to patients in their time of need, that they may not show you they need that care but it’s something that can change a negative situation into a positive one,” said Fabian, who plans to continue a career in medicine until retirement. “I had one incident when a patient came in bleeding early in her pregnancy and subsequently lost the baby. The patient showed up at my clinic again, and it worried me because I knew what had happened before, the outcome. They wanted to see me and remembered me so I made it a point to come into her delivery because we had bonded through previous experiences and also at her request.”

“Being a nurse is definitely something that is who you are as a person, part of your identity, not something you could ever leave behind,” said Chipman, a native of Plymouth, Indiana. “I do have a lot of patients coming back a lot (for treatment), and it makes them feel comfortable to have a nurse who knows their history, knows how they like to be cared for, because being in a hospital is such a scary time.”

Chipman, who was commissioned two years ago, plans to continue a career in medicine with her eyes set on Pediatric oncology.

To receive the award, nurses are judged on six elements: Love of profession and patient, Inspiration (inspiring others through action), Going above and beyond, Heart (demonstrating compassion and empathy), Teamwork and Selflessness. Together, the elements form the acronym LIGHTS.

To nominate a nurse, patients, physicians and other staff members can submit nominations forms found throughout the hospital and through the WBAMC website.

Author: Marcy Sanchez – William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office 

Fort Bliss WTB Physical Therapist Awarded DOD’s Spirt of Hope

Fort Bliss’ own, Louis Cortez, a physical therapist with the Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB), was honored with the Spirit of Hope Award at the Pentagon, by Col. Erik Rude, commander, William Beaumont Army Medical Center.

The award, named after the late comedian Bob Hope, is presented to one individual or an organization selected by each branch of service as well as an honoree from the Office of the Secretary of Defense who characterize the values Hope embodied: duty, honor, courage, loyalty, commitment, integrity, and selfless dedication.

“Today’s honorees embody that commitment, they embody that spirit, and they embody the best attributes of (Hope),” said Michael Rhodes, Director of Administration and Management, Office of the Secretary of Defense. “You serve those who protect this nation, you serve those who protect the freedoms we enjoy on a daily basis, so it is an honor to publicly thank and recognize these patriots for what they do for our nation to improve the lives of our troops.”

Cortez, an El Paso native who studied physical therapy in the Netherlands, has worked alongside hundreds of wounded, ill and injured Soldiers with the WTB for the past three years, providing Soldiers an innovative and individual-based approach to physical therapy, resulting in many making full recoveries from debilitating injuries and physical combat-related trauma.

Louis Cortez, physical therapist, Fort Bliss Warrior Transition Battalion, assists Staff Sgt. Franklin Beardsley, a California National Guardsman assigned to the WTB recovering from knee surgery, with proper form during the rehabilitative strength and conditioning program at the WTB, Oct. 2. | U.S. Army photo by Marcy Sanchez

“My mission is to help any ill or wounded Soldiers to recuperate or return to the fight, and if they can’t I help them recuperate as much as they can to become productive veterans,” said Cortez. “I show them that they may not be the same person they were before but there’s many more things they are able to do.”

For almost a year and a half, Cortez’ commitment to Soldiers has helped one Soldier’s return to duty, after suffering multiple injuries and surgeries to his shoulder in addition to being diagnosed with asthma.

“(My unit) sent me to the Warrior Transition Battalion, and I met (Cortez) and from day one we started working on the shoulder which only had about two to three percent range of motion,” said Spc. Ricardo Cabrera-Murphy, a Soldier in transition with the WTB. “I couldn’t even do anything (due to his injuries) not even wash myself, my wife had to help.

“When I got here that’s when everything started changing, (the physical therapy team) started rebuilding me to get me back to where I was,” said Cabrera-Murphy, a native of Carolina, Puerto Rico.

While doubting a successful recovery, Cabrera-Murphy and his family began to plan for his separation from the Army, despite his desire to continue service.

“After the first surgery I was still confident, after the second I thought ‘that’s it for me, I won’t be able to go back to work’,” said Cabrera-Murphy. “As time went on, the shoulder got better and eventually got 85 percent range of motion, I passed my (physical fitness test) and getting back in the fight.”

Cabrera-Murphy credits Cortez and the Fort Bliss WTB for his return to the Force, stating the command continuously emphasized proper recovery and determination.

“I’m so excited because if it wasn’t for (Cortez), I wouldn’t be going back to work,” said Cabrera-Murphy. “(Cortez) is dedicated to the Soldiers, giving them that personal care and not letting anything get by him.”

For Cortez, who has been practicing physical therapy for 20 years, the award was unexpected and came as a surprise after he was selected, but Cortez gives full credit to the Fort Bliss WTB and his coworkers who share a common objective: to make a difference.

“I think the whole WTB deserves recognition because we all do a great job and have a part in taking care of the Soldier,” said Cortez. “This award was unexpected but what gives me the greatest pleasure in my job is making a difference in the Soldiers’ lives and that’s what’s most important to me.”

According to the award citation, Cortez’ reputation as a competent, passionate and effective physical therapist gained the attention of installation leaders and was sought after by the 1st Armored Division to assist with improving the rehabilitative strength and conditioning programs across Fort Bliss, significantly increasing the readiness posture of 1st Armored Division and the U.S. Army as a whole.

“I push the Soldiers to better themselves physically, but when I see them bettering themselves and working harder, it motivates me to work harder for them, it’s back and forth with me,” said Cortez. “The best part of my job is when a Soldier says ‘Thank you. You have helped me through this hard time and you gave me some sort of hope that I can do something with myself’.”

The Spirit of Hope Award was established in 1997 and has been presented to various service members, civilians, organizations and even celebrities such as Kelly Pickler, Toby Keith and Gary Sinise.

“In the past, our honorees have been national or international organizations, possibly world recognized. They’ve been regional or local organizations that maybe only those around them know by name. But, what they all had in common is the fact that they recognize the critical importance of supporting the quality of life of our military personnel and their families,” said Rhodes, during the awards ceremony. “(Hope) and his family will always hold a special place in this Nation and especially in the hearts of the men and women who wear the uniform, who are willing to risk their lives for whatever the Nation may require of them.”

The Department of Defense awarded five individuals and one organization with the Spirit of Hope Award during an awards ceremony at the Pentagon, September 28.

Author: Marcy Sanchez–  William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

New Audiology Booth Supports East Bliss Readiness

“Say again… Over.” “Say again… Over.” Radio static may be the culprit for some miscommunication, but at times hearing loss may be to blame.

As part of the U.S. Army Hearing Program, Soldiers are required to take a hearing test, attend a hearing conservation briefing, and get fitted for hearing protection annually. To increase Soldier readiness on Fort Bliss, William Beaumont Army Medical Center’s East Bliss Health and Dental Clinic is slated to debut a new eight-station hearing booth, October 1.

The hearing booth will allow Soldiers assigned to the clinic, approximately 5,700, to conduct hearing exams near their Area of Operations while relieving congestion at other clinics through the Fort Bliss footprint.

“The brigade here was going to (Spc. Hugo V. Mendoza Soldier Family Care Center), this will alleviate the strain of trying to get everybody into that one clinic,” said Capt. Lydia Malloy, an audiologist and chief of the Fort Bliss Army Hearing Program. “Access to care is going to be better, hearing readiness is going to be better, all around a good thing.”

According to the Army Public Health Command, Soldiers may be subject to impact noise topping decibel (dB) levels at 175 – 180 dB, a range well above the safe limits of 85 dB for continuous noise and 140 dB for impact noise.

“The reason for the Army hearing program is to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, if we can identify shifts (in hearing capability) early then we can change the behavior to keep it from becoming a problem,” said Malloy. “Eventually that problem may affect someone’s career when you hit a certain point.”

The East Bliss Clinic offer a full spectrum of services from dental to behavioral health but has lacked audiology services since opening its doors six years ago.

“(The addition of the booth) will allow Soldiers to complete their physicals, enhance medical deployability while facilitating a much needed service within walking distance and in their medical home,” said Jackie Beard, clinical nursing officer in charge, East Bliss Health and Dental Clinic. “The booth will also alleviate some of the demands on the other test sites and meet missions.”

The eight-station booth joins two other hearing conservation booths already in use in other primary care clinics throughout Fort Bliss.

The Army Hearing Program consists of four components: hearing readiness, operational hearing services, clinical hearing services, and hearing conservation.

According to Malloy, survivability and lethality also drive hearing conservation amongst Soldiers, to maximize human potential during stressful situations such as combat.

In addition to safeguarding Soldier’s hearing, the new addition to the clinic also improves unit readiness by reserving more time for mission requirements in lieu of medical examinations.

“This booth will have a positive effect on Soldiers’ clinical needs, the installation and overall missions,” said Beard. “We are always forward thinking with new innovative ways to deliver excellent clinical care to our soldiers.”

Author: Marcy SanchezWilliam Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

Gallery+Story: Ft. Bliss Soldiers Earn German Proficiency Badge

Fort Bliss soldiers tested their fitness levels and soldier skills while getting a chance to earn a prestigious honor from a key partner nation.

About 130 soldiers went through a series of mental and physical challenges over five days and tested for the German Armed Forces Badge for Military Proficiency, or German Proficiency Badge for short.

One hundred and six soldiers made the cut and earned the badge, which comes in three classifications – bronze, silver and gold, with gold being the highest.

For U.S. soldiers, it was a way to shake up their training and also learn how the German military operates and trains. The proficiency badge is one of the foreign military badges that American soldiers can wear on their dress uniforms.

For the German Air Force, it is a way to say thanks for decades of hospitality and support at Fort Bliss.

Spc. Sarah Hernandez, from El Paso, said it was an amazing experience to be able to compete for the badge. Hernandez, a graduate of Santa Teresa High School, is a combat medic by trade and works at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in the surgical recovery ward.

Going through the testing for the German Proficiency Badge was a great way to sharpen up her soldier skills and get back to basics, Hernandez said.

“It is great. I love it,” Hernandez said. “In the hospital, you go through phases where you feel a little less like a soldier — doing more civilian-type medical procedures.

“And to be given this opportunity, it gives you a reminder that this is who I am first,” Hernandez said.

Candidates for the German Proficiency Badge went through four varied tests of skills.

They started out doing a 100-meter swim in uniform, but without boots.

German organizers say this is often the toughest test for American soldiers.

They then were challenged during a German physical fitness test – which consists of a shuttle sprint, a timed hanging event from a chin-up bar and a 1,000-meter run.

Next, they were tested on their marksmanship skills using German pistols.

They finished up with a ruck march carrying more than 30 pounds. The length varied – from around 4 miles to 7.5 miles — depending on which classification of the badge they were going for.

The testing was held during regular physical training hours in the morning, so it didn’t interfere with soldiers’ everyday duties.

The German air force conducts testing at Fort Bliss for the proficiency badge and a separate marksmanship badge several times a year.

It is a way to say “thank you” to their American hosts for more than 60 years of partnership at Fort Bliss, said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Zantis, the senior enlisted leader for the German air force at Fort Bliss.

“We get so much from Americans at Fort Bliss,” Zantis said. “They help us with everything we need. This is one of the things we can give back.”

The Germans have had a presence at Fort Bliss since 1956. In recent years, they have been downsizing. The German Air Force shut down its North American command center at the post in September 2013.

The Germans have continued to operate their air defense center, but have plans to eventually move that to Germany. The air defense center, however, will stay at Fort Bliss to at least 2022.

Staff Sgt. Patrick Lopez, of Shelton, Wash., said he had a great time while testing for the German badge.

“It is awesome,” said Lopez, who is part of the 1st Training Support Battalion, 364th Regiment.

“I am totally honored to be here and be a part of this,” Lopez added. “It is amazing. It is a lot better than I thought it would be. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m having a great time.”

Lopez’s unit is based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., but is here at Fort Bliss for a yearlong assignment.

Second Lt. Jerome Jones, of Baltimore, said the testing was a lot tougher than he expected.

“Honestly, it is difficult,” said Jones, a member of the 93rd Military Police Battalion.

“I thought we could come out here and do this with no difficulties, that it would be easy. It’s not,” Jones continued. “The Germans have a difficult test. I am glad to be able to participate in it.”


Author: David Burge – Special to the Herald-Post 

David Burge is a news producer at ABC-7 in El Paso. He has more than three decades of experience writing for newspapers in California, New Mexico and Texas. Covering the military is a particular passion.

WBAMC Soldier Aims to Improve Readiness of Fellow Soldiers

Marksmanship qualification courses are rare opportunities at Army Medical Centers where 24/7 operations essential to the health, and at times lives, of service members, their families and retirees, take top priority.

At William Beaumont Army Medical Center, a Military Treatment Facility which treats nearly 100,000 beneficiaries to include civilian traumas, a patient-filled schedule is an unacceptable excuse for disregarding Soldier duties.

To help Soldiers qualify on “the range,” one Soldier is increasing Soldier readiness at WBAMC through Primary Marksman Instruction (PMI), aimed at improving overall weapons proficiency and range scores in the Army’s Weapons Qualification Course.

“As soon as I showed up here (Troop Command, command sergeant major) tasked me (to provide marksmanship instruction),” said Staff Sgt. Stephen Van Eps, noncommissioned officer in charge, Urology Clinic, WBAMC. “He knows I’m a weapons guy, a gunsmith and he lives right by me.”

In his seven months assigned to the hospital, Van Eps has assisted in coaching dozens of Soldiers. Over his military career, Van Eps estimates he has coached over 100 qualification courses and oversaw at least 50 of them as the noncommissioned officer in charge.

The Master Marksmanship Training Course, a pilot program for marksmanship instructors in the Army, was recently launched. However, Van Eps, who hasn’t attended the course, credits his service as an infantryman in the Marine Corps for four years with launching his knack for shooting iron.

“To me (marksmanship instruction is simple), it’s just the standard,” said Van Eps, a graduate of the Marine Corps’ Primary Marksmanship Instructor (PMI) school, which develops marksmanship coaches to assist and instruct in small-arms fire. “I don’t do anything different, I just do what I do when it comes to any type of training.”

Recently, Van Eps was presented a token of appreciation from the German Air Force Air Defense School at Fort Bliss, Texas, for providing instruction on the M16 rifle and M9 pistol qualification courses to several German Air Force members, resulting in all 10 shooters placing in the sharpshooter or expert levels on the M16 and 70 percent of shooters qualifying with the M9 pistol.

“(Being recognized) was a huge honor, I was shocked to hear about it,” said Van Eps, a native of Morris, Minnesota. “There’s not that many opportunities for them to qualify on these weapons, so we taught one on one and small group instruction helping them identify deficiencies.”

While Van Eps, who holds an associate of science in firearm technology, has brought a wealth of marksmanship knowledge to WBAMC Soldiers, he credits other Soldiers for the increase in proficiency.

“I started recruiting within the hospital for coaches immediately after the first range,” said Van Eps. “I assessed who knew what they were doing, how they were shooting, and put together a comprehensive training plan to build safety and coaching mentalities in these coaches.”

According to Van Eps, a combat veteran with multiple deployments as a flight paramedic, marksmanship training at Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) is unique because of the emphasis on patient care. While some Soldiers are assigned to front-line units throughout their careers, others may not be afforded the opportunity, possibly compromising basic Soldier skills, such as marksmanship.

“If you don’t have (marksmanship) knowledge like this (qualifying) becomes complex,” said Van Eps. “(Noncommissioned officers at WBAMC) are trying to develop those skills in young Soldiers, across the board, not only in marksmanship. We’ve seen results the last few ranges with more than 95 percent qualifying, something unheard of in the medical community.”

A husband and father of three, the firearm enthusiast has extended his training to family members and enjoys watching them progress with different weapons systems.

“I’m an avid hunters, and have gone through several types of weapons courses,” said Van Eps.

Van Eps has qualified on weapons courses as an expert multiple times and hopes to one day qualify for the President’s Hundred Tab, a badge awarded to the top 100 civilian and military shooters in prestigious shooting competitions.

“I’m not an expert coach, I’m not an expert in marksmanship, but I am an expert in the basics,” said Van Eps, humbly. “As long as you master the basics you can do anything.”

Story by Marcy Sanchez – William Beaumont Army Medical Center Public Affairs Office

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