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Program teams Army veterinarians, veterinary hospital

Some U.S. Army veterinarians now have the opportunity, through a new mentorship program, to better prepare for administering emergency veterinary medicine on the battlefield. Photo credit: U.S. Army

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - U.S. Army veterinarians from the installation became the first in the service to participate in a new military-civilian partnership with BluePearl Management, LLC.

Soldiers from the 218th Medical Detachment (Veterinary Service Support) signed-on to take part in the mentorship program with the veterinary specialty hospital network, to help U.S. Army veterinarians better prepare for administering emergency veterinary medicine on the battlefield.

"We are constantly exploring new and better ways to address the emergency, critical care, and trauma management aspects of our dynamic veterinary service mission at home and in austere environments," says Col. Steven Greiner, U.S. Army Veterinary Corps Chief.  "This partnership allows us to leverage a national network of support through BluePearl specialty hospitals to enhance those critical skills of our frontline veterinarians and improve our expeditionary veterinary readiness posture."

The program, known as the U.S. Army Veterinary Trauma Readiness and Operational Medicine Agility, or "Vet-TROMA", was established by a Military Training Agreement between the Office of the Surgeon General and BluePearl. The collaborative program's goal is to ensure U.S. Army veterinary teams are ready to provide the best care possible when responding to trauma and critical care needs of military working dogs.

"Our veterinary teams need to be confident in handling emergent patients when split-second decision-making can be the difference between life and death," explains Lt. Col Kathryn Belill, the 218th MDVSS commander. "Veterinary treatment facilities on military installations serve as a readiness platform to prepare veterinary corps officers and animal care specialists to effectively support our military canines in operational environments, but lack the type of high volume and high acuity trauma or emergency cases seen at referral civilian veterinary emergency clinics."

In July, Capt. Abbey Calvo, a Team 2 leader from the 218th MDVSS, became the first veterinary corps officer to complete a clinical rotation at the Lakewood BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Hospital as part of the Vet-TROMA pilot program launch.

During the three-week on-site immersion rotation, Calvo saw a total of 105 emergent cases with either direct or indirect patient care. Cases ranged from a dog with a gunshot wound to the chest to treating acute toxicities and assisting with blood transfusions; all which may be required for care of military working dogs down range.

"Military working dogs are an irreplaceable asset to our military due to their ability to save the lives of our service members, so I need to be fully prepared to save their lives when they get injured or ill," explained Calvo. "This program ultimately increased my confidence and competence to treat those types of emergent and life-threatening conditions."

The new Vet-TROMA program consists of three phases. The first phase incorporates over 60 hours of distance-learning sessions on veterinary emergency medical topics available through a digital platform called BluePearl University and prioritized by Army veterinary clinical medical specialists based on the objectives of the program.

The second phase is a three-week onsite immersion rotation at a designated BluePearl Emergency and Specialty Hospital. There the military veterinarians are paired with a mentor and staff doctors to gain confidence and competence for receiving patients through the emergency room services and managing the treatment of those admitted to the intensive care unit.

The final phase of the program prepares a report for commanders on what each participant accomplished from a training and readiness perspective.

"The future of the Vet-TROMA program is exciting," says Lt. Col. Emilee Venn, the lead Army veterinarian for the program. "Through this important military-civilian partnership with BluePearl, the Army aims to maximize emergency medical training opportunities for Army Veterinary Services personnel to best support readiness and optimize survivability of canine combat casualties."

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