As an otolaryngologist and facial plastic surgeon with nearly three decades of military service to his credit, Dr. Jim Lucas ’92 is well acquainted with the demands placed upon physicians in the military. While on active-duty deployment in Djibouti, he witnessed firsthand the benefits of operational medicine and the special training required to prepare medical students for service as military physicians. The experience was eye-opening. “Unfortunately, I didn’t receive the kind of training needed to function effectively in such environments while I was a med student,” he noted.
As the new head of the College of Medicine’s burgeoning Department of Military Medicine, Lucas is committed to changing that calculus for forthcoming generations of military physicians.
“The war of the future will likely look vastly different than past wars,” he explained. “Russia and China are now peer adversaries, which is new. And in the future, physicians will likely be closer to the battle frontlines than ever before. They need to be well prepared.”
Military physicians will also have to deliver medical care in a multidomain environment that includes not only the traditional forums of land, air and sea but also space and cyberspace, Lucas added.
Happily, due to its rich and robust history of collaboration with the U.S. military, Texas A&M University is ideally suited to address this issue. Its Corps of Cadets is legendary, while the College of Medicine has served veterans since it was created more than four decades ago in conjunction with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System. Leveraging these connections to help train military physicians and conduct military health research through the Department of Military Medicine is a natural next step.
Preparing for Battle
The department has pioneered two programs to support military medicine education: the Cadet to Medicine (C2M) Program, which paves the way for members of the Corps of Cadets to pursue a career in military medicine, and the Military to Medicine (M2M) Program, which allows first-year students from the Army, Navy and Air Force’s military academies to secure admission to the College of Medicine following graduation.
Fourth-year medical student Brandon Dickey ’18 is a critical member of the planning group created by the college to define the department’s curriculum. “Texas A&M has a strong tradition of military culture through the Corps and an exceptional medical school,” he said. “We want to connect the dots and link all these resources together through the Department of Military Medicine.”
As an undergraduate, Dickey was eager to find a medical school that would prepare him to serve his country as a military physician. He believes Texas A&M’s program is the perfect fit. “As medical students and future members of the military, we want to serve, and that desire complements Texas A&M’s core value of selfless service,” Dickey observed. “The C2M and M2M programs similarly embody that shared focus, and I’m confident they will build great military medical professionals.”
Dr. Richard Byrd ’78 is similarly enthusiastic about the programs. A pediatrician with Houston’s Kelsey-Seybold Clinic and an affiliate clinical faculty member with the College of Medicine’s Houston campus, he and his wife, Katherine ’78, recently pledged the first endowed gift for the military medicine initiative. Named in memory of his late brother, their gift will provide scholarships to those pursuing medical degrees through the M2M program.
“My older brother, Joe, graduated from Texas A&M in 1969 and was an artillery officer in the Vietnam War,” Dr. Byrd said. “He served with distinction, earning both a Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart Medal, and later entered the construction business in Houston. He was a good brother to me and a tremendous father and grandfather. I wanted to do something meaningful to honor his memory.”
The Department of Military Medicine’s new initiatives rest on a solid foundation. Texas A&M enjoys strategic partnerships with a handful of the state’s military bases, including the Brooke Army Medical Center, the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center at Fort Hood, the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System and the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. Students pursuing the C2M and M2M initiatives undergo rotations within these institutions to bolster their understanding of the military’s unique needs and gain firsthand experience providing care and conducting research with military and veteran populations.
“We’re passionate about the programs we’ve built so far,” Lucas concluded. “They provide a special niche for our College of Medicine that I’m certain will yield tremendous benefits to both the military and Texas A&M in the coming years.”
The College of Medicine seeks to fund student scholarships for those pursuing careers in military medicine, together with an endowed chair for department head Dr. Jim Lucas '92 and endowed faculty professorships. To support the growing Department of Military Medicine, contact David Boggan '79, senior director of development, at the bottom of this page.
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