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Be all you can be in military medicine

Sgt. Bridget Kollock, the aide to the CSM of Madigan Army Medical Center on JBLM, is set to complete the Interservice Physician Assistant Program and commission as a first lieutenant. U.S. DoD photo by Kirstin Grace-Simons

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MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord- A recent survey shows that a sixth of Americans wanted to be a doctor when they grew up. That puts Sgt. Bridget Kollock, the command sergeant major aide at Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, in solid company. Trained and experienced as a 68B - an orthopedic technician - she is now taking advantage of the opportunities afforded her in the Army to work closer to that dream through the Interservice Physician Assistant Program.

Realizing that the medical field is broad and full of dream jobs, she sees an outlet for two of her interests in becoming a P.A.

"I'm very passionate about helping others," said Kollock. "I kind of feel like a detective, when there's something wrong you have to figure out what's causing it."

She finds the body fascinating. She trained and worked as an orthopedic technician from the time she came into the Army four years ago until this year when she stepped into the role of aide to the senior enlisted advisor at one of the Department of Defense's largest military treatment facilities.

With a military occupational specialty, or MOS, as a 68B, she performed duties to include making casts and splints, placing braces, wound care and caring for patients before and after surgical procedures. Once she became a sergeant, she moved into the role of noncommissioned officer in the Orthopedics Clinic.

At the start of 2022, Kollock moved into the command suite to support the command sergeant major. She will leave Madigan in November to return to her hometown of San Antonio, Texas, to the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence at Fort Sam Houston where the Phase 1 segments of both the technician programs as well as the IPAP take place. Her program begins in January.

Much like the structure of the tech course she completed previously, the 29-month IPAP is broken into two phases - Phase 1 is the 16-month classroom portion with intensive theory, lecture, demonstration and study, while Phase 2 is the hands-on clinical training.

A newlywed, Kollock will be separated from her active duty Army engineer husband for the year and a third that she will be in Phase 1. After that, though, she will be able to choose from 22 sites for Phase 2. As long as the installation has medical facilities adequate to support the base rotations, she can go where her husband is stationed for her Phase 2 training.

"Wherever he's at, I'll be happy, you know?" she said.

Her background made her a natural selection for the IPAP because it satisfied the prerequisites for the program. An applicant must have 60 semester hours of college coursework, with an emphasis in science.

As Kollock noted, this program catches a wide swath of active duty, Reserve and Guard service members from all branches. Enlisted members, officers and warrant officers can all apply to the program. As long as the prerequisite, foundational coursework is complete, a service member can apply for admission to the program from any military occupational specialty.

The program offers a notable range of possibilities by exposing its students to rotations in every type of clinic its Phase 2 facilities have.

Maj. Sarah Soja, a physician assistant-certified, has been the IPAP director at Madigan since mid-2020. Prior to this role, she served as the officer-in-charge of the Okubo Soldier-Centered Medical Home within Madigan's footprint and came to see, through supporting IPAP students, the benefit of spending time in the active duty clinics.

"As military P.A.s, we take an oath to be lifelong learners and I take that charge seriously. We provide the majority of primary care to our service members and having technically competent and professional officers is the foundation of our profession," she said.

Past the IPAP itself, there are three additional programs to continue to hone a P.A.'s focus for the specific duties required of a flight, emergency room or orthopedic P.A. Kollock is interested in possibly doing the flight P.A. track.

This is one of a number of programs that supports the advancement of personnel within the Army and DoD. The Army Green to Gold Program is another. It offers ways for enlisted soldiers to earn college degrees and commission as officers for further leadership and advancement potential.

"There are many great opportunities for enlisted soldiers to not only get college degrees but to become commissioned officers in the Army and the IPAP is definitely one of them. Soldiers just need to take advantage of them," confirmed Command Sgt. Maj. Albert Harris, Madigan's CSM and Kollock's rater.

Some of these programs, like the IPAP, require reenlistment.

Kollock re-upped for an additional six years once selected for the program. Though a requirement for this program, she wasn't deterred because she enjoys the Army and sees it as a two-way street.

"There are a lot of great opportunities, and the Army's gonna use you, so you might as well get as much as you can out of the Army," she said. "They have a lot of opportunities that I wish more service members would really take advantage of."

How did she find herself in a position to take advantage of this opportunity?

"It goes back to having good leadership," she noted. "Educating your subordinates is really important so they know what's out there for them. That would really help make sure Soldiers stay in because you joined for a reason and sometimes you lose motivation, but if you can find opportunities, you could pick up that motivation that you might have lost."

Harris has every confidence in her and knows she's ready for this endeavor.

"Sgt. Kollock will take the hard work, drive and motivation that she learned as a noncommissioned officer and carry them over to her new profession as a physician assistant, which will do nothing but benefit her patients," he said.

Kollock is motivated to explore what's next in her career. She's ready to see patients again and start sleuthing on their behalf.

To find out more about the IPAP, visit:

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