Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Evolution of the US Air Force Medical Service Corps - A call to proverbial arms

In early 1980, United States Air Force Strategic Air Command Surgeon General, William Greendyke (RIP)  wrote a memorable first letter* to his boss on the status of the medical staff and facilities under his purview. The most controversial part of his report was submitted under the topic "MSC Commander Issue."

His report was an attempt to solidify physicians as solely suitable to command medical facilities and permanently relegate officers trained as hospital administrators to subordinate positions. It included references to physicians as the top of the "pecking order" and therefore the biggest "peckers." It also referred to Medical Service Corps officers as "young...Turks."

If anything, Brigadier General Greendyke's letter galvanized the determination of Medical Service Corps officers to lead. Previously, there were three main reasons they were focused on command:
  • They had been commissioned as Air Force officers based on leadership potential
  • They were trained in Air Force leadership programs such as Squadron Officer's School, Air Command and Staff college and Air War College
  • They were prepared for health care leadership positions in Air Force sponsored civilian graduate programs in the country's top-ranked schools.
General Greendykes' letter provided a substantial fourth reason; it pissed people off.

In any event, MSCs subsequently gained more and more command positions and, as line officers and others recognized their success, leadership positions became accessible to medical service officers from all corps. The criteria for selection moved from; "Is he a physician?" to "Is he or she capable of succeeding in a command position."  Much better eh?!  

Today, it is possible for a non-physician to even serve in a surgeon general position similar to or greater than the one the good General Greendyke once held. And that, from  my perspective is justice...of the poetic kind.

 *Note...the infamous letter could not be found on the internet.  Until now that is...

1 comment:

Jay Veeder said...

My first Administrator showed me this letter in 1999 and he referred to it as the "Big Pecker Memo". Amazing that the author was so candid about his opinions. Also amazing how far we have come in the past 38 years! Heck, we now "let" all Corps openly compete for MTF Command based upon the strength of their records...what a concept!