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The legacy of military graduate medical education lives on
(Left to right) Dr. Kenneth Torrington, Col. (Dr.) Woodson Jones and Col. (Dr.) Randall Zernzach from the Graduate Medical Education program at Wilford Hall greet new interns during their in processing briefing June 9. The orientation was the final one for Dr. Torrington, who retired June 10. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech Sgt. Andy Bellamy)
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The legacy of military graduate medical education lives on

Posted 6/10/2011   Updated 6/10/2011 Email story   Print story


by Linda Frost
59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

6/10/2011 - LACKLAND AIR FORCE BASE, Texas  -- Top leadership of this unique military medical training program here shifted roles as Dr. Kenneth Torrington retired from his position as dean of the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium, or SAUSHEC on June 10. Col. Woodson Scott Jones, who previously served as the director of graduate medical education for the 59th Medical Wing, retires June 24, and will step into the dean's position.

Selected to replace Colonel Jones is Col. Randall Zernzach, the former associate director of medical education for Wright-Patterson Medical Center in Dayton, Ohio. He will also serve as SAUSHEC's Air Force associate dean.

SAUSHEC is a joint Army and Air Force residency training program that oversees all military graduate medical education in the Alamo city with two major training sites at Wilford Hall and Brooke Army Medical Centers, and a close partnership with University of Texas Health Sciences Center of San Antonio and the Audie Murphy Veterans Administration Hospital.

Graduate medical education is the cornerstone and the lifeblood of military medicine. It provides the foundation for excellence in patient care, education and training, and research in more traditional medical and surgical specialties and in unique military specialties such as flight surgery.

As the first civilian dean of SAUSHEC, Dr. Torrington's four-year tenure at Wilford Hall Medical Center took graduate medical education programs to another level during a critical time as the Air Force and Army medical services in San Antonio joined forces as mandated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Law.

Under Dr. Torrington's leadership, integration of Air Force and Army medical graduate programs was completed 15 months before the deadline.

"He leaves the legacy of fully integrating SAUSHEC while simultaneously ensuring our average program accreditation lengths and board pass rates exceeded the national average," commented Colonel Jones.

The consortium is one of the largest GME institutions in the Department of Defense with 575 Air Force and Army residents training in 34 programs, accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

"Besides integrating training programs, we supported transition of a significant number of graduate medical education programs to the BAMC campus," Dr. Torrington said.

He added that "SAUSHEC represents a great example of how to merge Air Force and Army physicians, patients and equipment seamlessly."

"As I take over the helm as dean, I realize I stand on the shoulders of a giant," added Colonel Jones. "My goals will be to maintain the outstanding accomplishments of my predecessors in SAUSHEC while expanding the consortium to include graduate allied health training."

Colonel Jones said he intends to work closely with the San Antonio Military Health System leadership using "our tradition of collaboration within SAUSHEC as one model" in developing the world-class medical system envisioned by BRAC.

Meantime, Colonel Zernzach, the newest member of the team, brings a wealth of experience working in a community with successfully integrated residency training programs between the Air Force, a number of community hospitals, and a medical school.

"My challenge is to continue the fine work that has been done by Dr. Torrington and Colonel Jones, essentially standing on their shoulders and doing what I can do to contribute to the achievement of excellence by SAUSHEC," stated Colonel Zernzach, who also served as associate residency program director in the Wright State University/Boonshoft School of Medicine-Wright-Patterson Integrated Residency Program.

The medical system of the Armed Services has a one-of-a kind mission. Not only do the health professionals care for military members and their dependents and retired military personnel, but they also must be ready to deploy and practice medicine in austere conditions or support humanitarian missions. Specialized curriculum such as combat and trauma care, critical care air transport and disaster preparedness makes it a unique program. Some doctors also compete for prestigious positions while others apply for additional fellowship training which begins an entirely new chapter of learning in their lives. These individuals endure years of hard work, intense training and in-depth study to become the warrior medics who save lives both here and down range.

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