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Conducted both virtually and in-person, the symposium featured participants and guest speakers from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Navy Reserve Professional Development Center and multiple Regional Reserve Component Commands. Topics of interest included improving oversight of Reserve medical readiness, implementation of new COVID-19 vaccination guidelines and reducing non-deployability across the Reserve Force.
“The focus of this week’s symposium is on having a deployable force—a ready, fit force,” said Navy Reserve Force Surgeon, Capt. Brian Bowes. “We’re getting after that by utilizing our three Cs: communication, culture and commonality.”
Many attendees and speakers saw the symposium as an opportunity to meet facet-to-face, share best practices, refine policies and procedures, and exchange lessons learned from across the force.
“It’s important for us to connect, lead, shake hands and communicate to get our Sailors the care they need to stay deployment ready,” said Master Chief Hospital Corpsman Ornella Buccino-Jones, Senior Enlisted Leader at Navy Medicine Readiness and Training Unit North Island, Calif.
“I think the symposium is helping to put visibility on the little things Reserve Sailors sometimes need help taking care of,” said Hospital Corpsman First Class Alexandria Carr, Mobilizations Leading Petty Officer at Reserve Component Command Great Lakes, Ill. “There are a lot of big moving pieces and big-picture ideas going on within the Reserve Force, so standardization and getting everyone on board with the same medical readiness idea—this will streamline that.”
One of the main initiatives explored during the symposium was the integration of MHS GENESIS, a new electronic health record being rolled out for the Military Health System (MHS), which provides enhanced, secure technology to manage health information. The system integrates inpatient and outpatient solutions to connect medical and dental information across the continuum of care, from point of injury to the military treatment facility. Once fully employed, the system will provide a single health record for service members, veterans, and their families—something several symposium participants point to as an asset in the mission to report the most concise, up-to-date readiness numbers to leadership.
Symposium participants also pointed to the need to educate Reserve Sailors on the resources available for them to remain consistently mission ready.
“Sometimes, from a SELRES perspective, staying mobilization ready is really a question of resources,” said Carr. “Perhaps they don’t utilize TRICARE or don’t know how to utilize TRICARE and they can only get certain things done on their drill weekends.”
Chief Hospital Corpsman Casey Osbey, supervisor for the Reserve Medical Administration course at the Navy Reserve Professional Development Center in New Orleans, emphasized the need to prepare NRPDC students to step up to support the Reserve Force on day one.
“We want to make sure the larger Reserve medical community understands what we’re teaching our RMA students, because our students are going to be joining their NOSC medical departments,” said Osbey, “No matter where our students go, the process is going to be the same.”
Force-wide, mandatory COVID-19 vaccine reporting was a major discussion point of the symposium, with a focus on storage and distribution of the vaccine at Navy Reserve installations.
“For COVID vaccine ordering and distribution, our team has been working closely with CAPT Bowes’ team to set the NOSCs up for success,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jennifer Nestor, Deputy Director, Medical Equipment Logistics Solutions (MELS) at Naval Medical Logistics Command.
Nestor said that differing space requirements and refrigeration capabilities at Navy Operational Support Centers (NOSCs) around the nation make it difficult to standardize a single COVID-19 vaccine delivery system across the entire Reserve Force.
“The biggest hurdles to overcome are both the temperature requirements and the sheer size of COVID-19 vaccine packaging,” said Nestor. “This limits our distribution capability to support the NOSC requirements. However, we’re working closely with the U.S. Army Medical Materiel Agency’s Distribution Operations Center and sister service vaccine program managers to support redistributions from Military Treatment Facilities (MTFs) to the NOSCs when necessary.”
Carr, who traveled to Norfolk from Great Lakes for the symposium, said she appreciated the opportunity to meet with her peers to exchange ideas, approaches and information in a COVID-safe symposium atmosphere.
“It is amazing to be able to get that face-to-face time with them and actually get to ask questions in person,” said Carr. “It’s great to be able to get those answers right then and there—and being able to bring that back and push information out will be super beneficial.”
At the conclusion of the symposium, Bowes thanked all participants and once again reinforced the most basic and important piece of readiness guidance for every Sailor in the Reserve Force.
“If you’re a Sailor, as soon as you’re aware of any change in your medical status, report it by your next drill weekend or within thirty days,” Bowes said.
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