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VCU Health’s Military-Civilian Partnership continues to grow through new course offerings

The innovative trauma care course, launched in December 2023, aims to bridge the gap between military and civilian health care approaches.

Doctors examining together in lab Lt. JG Robin Stephens, ICU nurse, and Lt. Honey Mae Ilustrisimo, OR nurse, practiced how to cover a burn wound at the Evans-Haynes Burn Center at VCU Health. They were part of the first cohort of nurses who participated in the training program last summer. (Enterprise Marketing and Communications)

By Danielle Pierce

VCU Health’s Military-Civilian Partnerships and VCU’s Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education recently unveiled a groundbreaking training program aimed at enhancing military surgical teams' readiness in managing trauma situations prior to deployment.

Fundamentals of Assessment and Management of Military Trauma, otherwise known as FAM2T, is a comprehensive and multidisciplinary course developed in alignment with the military's Joint Trauma System Clinical Practice guidelines, which are the gold standard in United States military medicine.

“As leaders in trauma education and care and the only comprehensive Level I trauma center in the region verified in adult, pediatric, and burn trauma care, it is imperative that we continue to find innovative ways to partner with our military teams,” said Michel Aboutanos, M.D., chief of Acute Care Surgical Services in the Department of Surgery and medical director of VCU Medical Center’s Level I trauma center. “FAM2T is just one way that VCU Health provides unique approaches in preparing military healthcare providers for the challenges they may face on the battlefield.”

The uniqueness of this training lies in its holistic approach, encompassing various disciplines crucial for efficient trauma care in austere environments. The curriculum – meticulously crafted at VCU Health by both civilian and military experts in trauma care – covers essential areas such as trauma physiology, burn care, critical care, emergency medicine, vascular surgery, anesthesiology and pre-hospital care. Jay Gould, director of the Center for Trauma and Critical Care Education, played a large role in the curriculum's development.

“By leveraging real-world deployed scenarios and VCU faculty combat experience as well as the Joint Trauma System's guidelines, we developed the training to equip military surgical teams with the knowledge and skills necessary for successful outcomes in challenging environments,” Gould said.

One of the key aspects of this initiative is its integration within a civilian institution, highlighting VCU Health's commitment to bridging the gap between military and civilian health care standards. While several civilian institutions offer specialty-specific training or clinical immersion experiences, VCU Health’s program stands out for its structured approach to specifically align with military guidelines in a comprehensive and multidisciplinary manner.

The training, conducted over a full day and spanning approximately eight hours, consists of presentations, targeted skill stations, and immersive clinical scenarios. These elements provide a hands-on learning experience, allowing attendees to apply collective knowledge collaboratively as a team. Each training is open to all military surgical teams, irrespective of branch or status, and can be tailored to meet specific unit learning objectives.

Since its inception in December 2023, FAM2T has successfully trained 27 active-duty personnel in two sessions, with plans for more frequent course offerings in the future. VCU Health plans to expand the course by incorporating advanced medical training opportunities and is seeking formal validation from the Joint Trauma System, paving the way for broader adoption across civilian academic institutions.

“We are so grateful for the extraordinary work of the military's joint trauma system over the past several decades of conflict,” said Omar Rokayak, D.O., trauma surgeon and medical director of VCU Military-Civilian Partnerships. “Their tireless efforts preserve the hard lessons gained from war and enable the data-driven and evidence-based standards of care across all military medicine. The resultant development and continuous updates of the clinical practice guidelines have and continue to save lives each and every day. We're very fortunate to have those as resources on which to build and improve our course. Through our efforts, we hope to facilitate replication of FAM2T or similar courses as needed across other civilian academic institutions as part of the broader mission of US Military-Civilian Partnerships, attaining zero preventable deaths, at home and on the battlefield.”

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