It’s a great place to serve

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Mark J. Batcho
  • 71st Medical Support Squadron commander
As a medical administrator, I've had the opportunity to serve in many medical facilities at many different levels throughout the Air Force. Like most of us, I've enjoyed the opportunities, challenges, travel, and especially the people who have crossed my path. 

In all of my assignments, I haven't worked with a group of more dedicated professionals than those right here in the 71st Medical Group. 

Last month, my wife Treva was invited to attend a Nursing Honor Society Induction Ceremony at the North Western Oklahoma State University campus in Alva. The whole family eagerly attended and supported our wonderful wife and mom, but the event was long, and challenging. 

The five kids and I tried to remain attentive but discussing a Braum's stop on the way home was the evening priority. The ceremony and long lineup of speakers dragged on. 

The more memorable part of the event was the key note speaker who tried to impart words of wisdom for the future nurses in attendance. This highly esteemed nurse educator delivered a message that centered around a book titled "Packing and Repacking Your Bags, Lighten Your Load for the Rest of Your Life." 

His message centered on three questions. What really matters? How much is enough? What is a good life? The speaker explored simple concepts such as packing so much into our lives that there's not much room for really living. 

He challenged the vision of what makes a good life, and more importantly, how do you live it? His message was tied to four key components; work, love, place, and purpose.
I listened and thought about the application of his message to my life; especially my work. I thought about my work experiences during the previous 18 months with the men and women I'm privileged to serve with right here at the Vance AFB Medical Clinic. 

We have an impressive mix of about 155 active duty, civilian and contract partners committed to providing medical care and support for our current patriots, as well the warriors of the past. 

This dedicated team serves about 4,000 beneficiaries in North Oklahoma. Most medics call them patients or customers. 

About 1,200 of them are active duty; mostly students and other Team Vance members. Another 1,700 are active duty family members. 

We also serve about 1,100 retirees, a group Tom Brokaw calls the greatest generation. Come visit one day and you'll see why. You might learn a little more about the Korean War or the battle of the Coral Sea, and they'll appreciate you taking the time to ask -- and listen. 

Last year, this medical team produced four of the 71st Flying Training Wing annual award winners, four Air Education and Training Command annual award winners, won the Small Medical Treatment Facility of the Year in the continental United States in both 2006 and 2007; and was the first-ever Air Force winner of the Department of Defense Pharmacy Award for Outstanding Achievement. 

Together, every year, we complete about 20,423 visits, fill 59,000 prescriptions, complete 12,640 lab tests and perform 1,240 radiology procedures. 

In addition to the hectic pace of delivering peacetime healthcare, last May we completed our Health Services Inspection, or medical IG team inspection. Also in May, we completed our civilian healthcare inspection -- the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. 

Thanks to a great team of medics, these inspections were a huge success and culminated about 12 months of additional work and preparation. 

We just had a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate our newly renovated clinic. There were a few speakers to commemorate the event but the real work was done by this great team. 

For 18 months, they juggled schedules, service outages, personnel issues, work stoppages, and unforeseen events in the construction plan. We struggled with, and overcame, significant issues with patient privacy, infection control, security, patient access, and a myriad of other issues. 

They moved entire medical operations such as lab, medical records, pharmacy, and flight medicine into temporary locations, and then back again. 

Throughout all of this turmoil, our providers, nurses, technicians, and support staff never turned away a patient or closed appointments. In October, we closed the pharmacy for two days and other than those two days, we never closed services one time. That is testimony to a great team of passionate caregivers that I work with everyday. 

No matter what you do, or where you work, I hope you realize how honorable it is to wear your nation's uniform, or to work in support of those that do. 

I don't know what makes a good life, but I know that being fulfilled with what you do and where you work is an important element. I know that fulfillment at work is easily found when you're committed to making a difference, despite the behavior or actions of anyone else. 

I'm blessed to be part of a great team -- and so are you. Have a wonderful holiday and a healthy and safe new year.