Fort Polk Community
One of DENTAC’s best attends AMEDD leadership course
Story by Angie Thorne on 06/17/2019
FORT POLK, La. Sgt. 1st Class Jerry L. McMillian, Fort Polk Dental Health Activity, senior enlisted advisor, attended the Army Medical Department Junior Leadership Course in Washington D.C. from April 29-May 3.
The AMEDD Junior Leadership Course identifies outstanding active and Reserve component leaders who have made significant contributions to the AMEDD mission and performed in an exceptionally outstanding manner and prepares them to be future leaders of the Army Medical Department.
The nomination process is rigorous, said McMillian, who had to meet tough criteria highlighting his accomplishments throughout his military career.
“There were 30 applicants. There is a stringent process in place as the packets are reviewed. They only select 10 Soldiers for this course and I was selected to participate. That made me the first person in the history of the Army Dental Corps to attend,” said McMillian.
Lt. Col. Paul M. Colthirst, Fort Polk DENTAC, former commander, said he knew McMillian’s packet was outstanding and he would be a good candidate for this course.
“He has a very strategic mindset and understands the big picture. Having someone of his caliber selected enabled him to attend the course, learn all he could and come back to help us shape the future of Fort Polk DENTAC and DENTAC overall,” said Colthirst.
McMillian said a host of generals and senior leaders led the course. Topics discussed included new health-care provisions, improving the administration of medical treatment facilities, focusing on individual critical task lists for Soldiers, virtual health and more.
“The main focus was to teach us what we need to know now, so as current leaders retire, we are prepared to step up and take their place, ensuring we have a sustainable readiness model of the future operational environment,” McMillian said. “We have to understand our role, not only as Soldiers, but also as health care providers taking care of Soldiers ready to deploy.”
Participating in a course led by AMEDD’s highest level of command, said McMillian, has made him feel like he needs to champion the way ahead. “From my personal perspective, I have to take what I learned and get this information to my senior leaders. I’ve talked to my peers and colleagues and explained there are changes taking place that will impact us and that gives them a better understanding of where the future of AMEDD is headed. I feel like they are depending on me to get that message out,” he said.
McMillian said he was ecstatic about this experience.
“I have gained so much knowledge and information from this course. It has given me a broader understanding of what I need to do as a leader. This class also taught me to no longer think outside the box, but to think without the box,” he said.
One of the leading concepts of the future of health care is virtual health, McMillian said.
“It’s the way of the future. Using technology such as cameras, computers and bandwidth or internet, as a provider (or health care professional) I am able to work with another provider in another country or state to assist in an exam or procedure, possibly one that needs to be done on the battlefield,” he said.
Since his return from the Junior Leadership Course, McMillian has shared and worked with the dental activity team on this concept here at Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk creating a proof of concept for Dental Virtual Health.
“We explained our proof of concept to a board. Not only were they impressed with what we came up with, but also awarded us with money we requested for the project and asked if we needed more. I think we did a good job. It’s still in the infancy stages, but the concept has moved up to the highest AMEDD commands,” he said.
Colthirst said with McMillian’s guidence Fort Polk’s DENTAC is far ahead of other DENTACs in regards to their proof of concept of virtual health.
“He learned how the medical side of the house is doing virtual health and has come up with a hybrid program that works for DENTAC and is continuing to refine that process. I believe it will be a very successful program,” said Colthirst.
McMillian said the program focuses on caring for patients in remote locations, which can save the Army large amounts of money and time lost to travel.
For example, instead of a Soldier traveling for a day to a specialist two states away for a 30 minute appointment and then turning around to travel back, with the proper bandwidth and equipment, the consultation can be taken care of here at Fort Polk.
McMillian said virtual health also has the ability to impact capability in the JRTC training area as well as downrange.
“Imagine its use in a battlefield situation. For example, a Soldier has been the victim of an improvised explosive device. The Soldier makes it back to the forward operating base and needs additional care beyond the skills of the health care provider. This provider can access virtual health care by calling a subject matter expert to consult with and get the best care for the Soldier using the technology available,” he said. “It’s a big part of our future. Our plan is to work toward making JRTC and Fort Polk, which is already a world-class training platform, an official dental virtual health-training site. Will that happen? We don’t know, but that is a goal we are striving for.”