The United States Army Battalion Surgeon: Frontline Requirement or Relic of a Bygone Era?
ARMY COMMAND AND GENERAL STAFF COLL FORT LEAVENWORTH KS
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In decades past, the Battalion Surgeon was the embodiment of forward medical care. As the first medically educated resource to lay hands on wounded warriors, the presence of the Battalion Surgeon has been constant through many iterations of medical change. Today, the Battalion Surgeon remains positioned at the presumed gateway of the complex system of medical care delivered to the American Soldier. Based on the Battalion Surgeons forward position in the field, one might suspect that modernization of the position would be the force behind improved casualty survival. But no credible study, anecdotal data, or expert opinion suggests that the Battalion Surgeon skill-set has played any role of significance in mortality reduction. One reason that the Battalion Surgeon is rarely considered a critical factor in recent conflicts is because the working expertise of Battalion Surgeons has been moving away from field medical and combat casualty care and towards other specialties. Almost none of the Armys Battalion Surgeons have completed training programs in surgery. Instead, 99 percent of todays Army Battalion Surgeons have specialty careers in nonsurgical areas of medicine other than battlefield emergency care. Combat, particularly prolonged combat, creates opportunities for systems testing, analysis, and production of new ideas. The ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan provide the U.S. Army with opportunities to identify weaknesses in medical strategy and doctrine. This thesis traces the evolution and evaluates the current practice of forward battlefield resuscitation and care -- particularly, the paradigm of dispatching physicians to maneuver battalions. The thesis ultimately challenges the notion that physicians should be dispatched to forward units as Battalion Surgeons and will evaluate whether Physician Assistants are more appropriate for front line medical roles in the modern Army.
- Personnel Management and Labor Relations
- Medicine and Medical Research
- Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics