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Commentary: Medics continue "to do what we do best"

U.S. Air Force Col. Lauren Byrd, 17th Medical Group commander, shakes a veteran’s hand at the Veteran Affairs clinic ribbon cutting in San Angelo, Texas, August 20, 2019. Goodfellow Air Force Base leadership attended the ribbon cutting to show their support and gratitude. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ethan Sherwood/Released)

U.S. Air Force Col. Lauren Byrd, 17th Medical Group commander, shakes a veteran’s hand at the Veteran Affairs clinic ribbon cutting in San Angelo, Texas, August 20, 2019. Goodfellow Air Force Base leadership attended the ribbon cutting to show their support and gratitude. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ethan Sherwood/Released)

GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --

In a recent email to the men and women of the 17th Medical Group, also known as the Cobra Medics, I wrote, “We are being called upon to do what medics do best – provide for the health and safety of our patients.” 

As the world changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in ways we could never have imagined just a few months ago, one thing that will remain consistent is the dedication and professionalism of the healthcare workers on the front lines of this fight. I have the honor of leading such a group of individuals.

The 17th Training Wing at Goodfellow AFB is part of the training pipeline of the United States’ Air Force. Our wing’s mission of training intelligence and fire-fighting professionals has been deemed mission essential by our leaders at the highest-levels of the Air Force and must continue so that our military remains able to fight and win our nations’ war when called upon.  

The Cobra Medics, always integral to mission accomplishment, but recently thrust into the spotlight, have been unwavering in their commitment to keep students and instructors in the training environment while adjusting normal healthcare processes. Social distancing can seem like an oxymoron in healthcare where a human touch and patient-centeredness are standard practice, but our medics have implemented the use of virtual appointments and telehealth at lightning speed to keep our beneficiary population safe.  

At the same time, we have established deliberate practices to care for our patients for whom a virtual visit is not appropriate. Without a doubt, the changes we have implemented have impacted our entire population and been challenging for some to accept, but we have made every decision with the health and safety of our entire patient population in the forefront.

Collaboration with our partners across the installation has never been stronger and we have operated outside the four walls of our clinic in greater frequency than ever before to allow our students and instructors to focus on the training mission at a time when they are making significant adjustments to their processes as well.  

Even as we have continued to take care of patients, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the increased level of anxiety that goes along with coming to work each day during this time. Our medics share the same concerns about the health and safety of their loved ones as everyone else does, particularly because healthcare workers are at a heightened risk of exposure to COVID-19. To ensure we can maintain an adequate number of healthcare workers to combat this virus, we implore you to help us flatten the curve by fully implementing the social distancing guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

I don’t know how this current situation will end or for how long we will have to sustain the adjustments we have been asked to make, but I am confident that Goodfellow AFB will be postured to continue to train Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen as long as our leaders ask us to, because we have medics that continue to do what they do best each and every day.

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