June 28, 2012

Medical Service Corps celebrates anniversary

Story and photos by Natalie Campbell

Capt. Gary Bush inspects blood samples at the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center Laboratory on June 20. “I am a 71E which is a laboratory manager and medical laboratory scientist. I am responsible for the quality and accuracy of patient sample results and the daily operation of the various clinical science sections of the Pathology Department,” he said.

A doctor in an Army medical health center was examining the bottom of the left foot of a Soldier who’d been complaining about a growth. Carefully, the officer moved the foot from side to side, assessing its condition.

“Corporal, you have a plantar’s wart,” he said. “I’m writing you a prescription that will help it clear up.”

When the Soldier returned for his follow-up appointment, the wart was gone. Granted, the complaint wasn’t combat related, but the discomfort it caused had the potential to make the Soldier perform his mission less efficiently if he had to spend time on his feet, or if walking or running for a distance.

Thanks to the doctor and his diagnosis, the Soldier was able to treat himself and eradicate the problem with no effect on his unit’s mission.

On Saturday, the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps will celebrate its 95th anniversary. The MSC is an important national resource with a long and distinguished history. Thousands of officers have served in its ranks, supporting the nation’s defense missions in peace and war throughout the world.

With varied academic backgrounds and disciplines, these officers have often been widely recognized and highly regarded leaders in their respective fields. An MSC officer may serve in fields such as health services, laboratory sciences, preventive medicine, behavioral sciences, pharmacy, optometry, podiatry and aeromedical evacuation. They represent the growth in medical science and military medical operations and administration over two centuries.

The U.S. Army Medical Service Corps was established in 1947, yet their history dates back to the Revolutionary War, with an appointment of an apothecary general. For years, its members were strictly Army officers with a medical background.

In World War I, the requirement for a considerable number of officers who were neither physicians, dentists or veterinarians, resulted in formation of “what, for lack of a better name, was called the Sanitary Corps,” on June 30, 1917. The MSC modernized the medical department with officers in a wide variety of administrative and scientific specialties, ranging from accounting, personnel, medical equipment repair, hospital design, medical supply, patient registrar and adjutant; to bacteriology, parasitology, physiology, psychology, occupational therapy, sanitary engineering, x-ray and nutrition. Positions included command of hospital and sanitation detachments, motorized ambulance companies and hospital trains.

After the war, the Sanitary Corps remained a component of the Army Reserve until August 4, 1947, when Congress consolidated it with the Medical Administrative Corps (established in 1920) and the Pharmacy Corps (established in 1943) to create the MSC. The unbroken chain, from present day to June 30, 1917, links the Sanitary Corps as the oldest direct antecedent of the MSC and cause for celebrating its establishment as the MSC birthday.

Sgt. Kyle Clanton, noncommissioned officer in charge of Preventive Medicine at Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, walks through his Base Camp Assessment at the 542nd Army Reserve unit’s annual training site on Friday. The Reserve unit will be at Fort Huachuca for two weeks. Clanton inspects general sanitation at the camp including local environment, water and hand-washing stations.

Today, MSCs provide the administration, planning, programming and budgeting of every Army Medical Department effort. They maintain the Army’s wartime medical capability through command of its field medical establishment. They operate what may possibly be the most effective logistical system anywhere. In countless ways, the men and women of the MSC are at the forefront of the Army Medical Department’s humanitarian role in national defense.

There are 24 distinct areas of concentration within the Corps. The assignments associated with these different areas range from a medical platoon leader in a brigade combat team, to a biochemist developing vaccines and other agents to defeat the effects of bioterrorism. The Corps is made up of skilled officers who provide leadership and expertise to Joint Command Strategic Operations — from the front lines of Afghanistan and Iraq to the laboratories of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

At Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, MSC officers are vital to maintaining working order and operations for the organization. Without an officer “behind the scenes,” providing oversight of administration, Medical Command operations would likely run far less efficiently.

Capt. Maurice Galloway serves as the chief of Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center’s Patient Administration Division and has oversight of more than 17,000 medical records maintained at RWBAHC and its satellite clinics. Galloway monitors and searches for new ways to efficiently collect billable revenue via the Uniform Business Office and ensures that the efforts of RWBAHC providers are accurately specified, documented and completed by the Coding Section here to a standard exceeding that of the current MEDCOM guidance.

“I Am PAD to the Bone!” he joked.

MSC officers at RWBAHC have varied roles, and show the versatility of the Medical Service Corps. Maj. Kathy Babin, chief of Environmental Health, provides services designed to keep all personnel on the installation safe and healthy. “I provide oversight to the Environmental Health section to include food safety, water quality, garrison sanitation inspections, field sanitation and entomology,” she said. “Our goal is the prevention of food, water and vector-borne diseases across the installation supporting a population of over 21,000 personnel.”

Babin also provides consultation to RWBAHC command on all issues pertaining to regulated medical waste, hazardous waste and pollution prevention measures to ensure the facility meets all joint commission, federal, state and local regulations.”

The Medical Service Corps officers at RWBAHC strive to continue the tradition of service, providing the skills and leadership that will see the MSC through the next 95 years.

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