Yes, he’s treating patients alongside other nurses and physicians. But the emergency room he’s working in is not as close to downtown Sacramento as it usually is for him.
Lt. Col. and Dr. Stuart, as he’s currently known, is about 7,000 miles from California’s capital city.
Stuart is deployed in Afghanistan, where he’s serving in the Air Force on this Veterans Day as lead emergency physician at Craig Joint Theater Hospital at Bagram Airfield.
He says it’s been his civilian experiences at UC Davis Medical Center that have given him many of the skill sets needed to care for Coalition forces in the war zones of Afghanistan.
Stuart gained many of those clinical skills from the unique training partnership between UC Davis and the David Grant Medical Center at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California.
“We [the U. S. Air Force] actually have Air Force staff, fulltime faculty and residents, embedded in the medical center,” said Stuart, during a recent video conference from Bagram Airfield. “So, alongside our civilian surgeons we have military active duty physicians with military residents. It’s a fully integrated into the system at Travis.”
The partnership began in 1995 with an Air Force residency rotation in trauma surgery at the medical center in Sacramento. In 2005, UC Davis and David Grant merged their respective medical residency programs to create an all-in-one training education for surgeons.
Today, including the physicians in residency training programs, more than 200 veterans work within UC Davis Health. Their jobs range from nurses to technicians to police officers.
Some, like Stuart, are active duty and can be deployed at any time. Others are retired. And still others are on hiatus from their service while they are in training at the health system.
Before returning to the Air Force for an eight-year commitment, Tibbits is finishing the final two years of a trauma and surgical critical care fellowship. It’s an educational opportunity that enables young physicians like to Tibbits refine their expertise for medical careers in both civilian and military arenas.
“I chose to join the Air Force because I come from a long line of military officers, and I wanted to keep it in the family business,” said Tibbits. “What has stood out most to me in my six-plus years at UC Davis is what a tremendously supportive working environment it is. People are friendly and happy to help. Everyone in the institution seems to be dedicated to the learning and training environment.”
When he’s not deployed overseas, Stuart, along with fellow Air Force Lt. Col. and Dr. Roderick Fontenette, helps direct the military residency program for the UC Davis Department of Emergency Medicine.
Stuart jokes that the only way to tell the difference between military personnel and civilian clinicians at the medical center is by their haircuts.
“You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between who’s who because it’s such a seamless integration. It’s really a win-win for everyone involved,” he said.
Whether it’s the Air Force, Navy or any other branch of service, when military personnel are called to duty, they need to be fully prepared to care for the wounded. UC Davis Medical Center provides just the right training ground.
In fact, a 2015 UC Davis Health study found that because it’s a level I trauma center, UC Davis closely mirrors the military’s Role 3 facilities. Those facilities provide the highest-level care services in the military. They are nearest the battlefields and designed to manage large numbers of trauma injuries.
Of course, it works both ways. That “win-win” as Stuart calls it.
The lessons learned from providing medical care during armed conflicts have also played an important role in advancing the care for injured civilians back home. Through both research and combat experience, civilian care has been enhanced over the years.
Indeed, the partnership now goes beyond physician residency programs. Other health care professionals from the military are also gaining patient care experiences and skills from new collaborations. Cardio-thoracic intensive care unit nurses from David Grant recently started doing clinical rotations at UC Davis Medical Center.
And the two health systems are looking for more opportunities for nurses’ training, including burn and trauma care.
“For me and many other people in the military, it’s partnerships like we have at UC Davis that are really the future of military medicine,” Stuart said. “We have to further these partnerships to make sure we maintain critical skills and teach those critical skills to our developing Air Force residents.”
A snapshot of range of veteran and military-related programs and partnerships at UC Davis Health:
- David Grant USAF Medical Center partnership
Since the summer of 2005, the entire residency program of David Grant Medical Center, located at Travis Air Force Base, has been merged with the UC Davis Medical Center residency program. Military surgeons who received trauma training and completed surgical residencies at UC Davis have applied the organizational principles they learned there while serving overseas. Some have even called it the “Davis System.”
- UC Davis Emergency Medicine USAF Integrated Residency Program
UC Davis Emergency Medicine residency program, in collaboration with the United States Air Force (USAF), offers active duty training positions in each new residency class. Interested applicants from the USUHS (Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences), HPSP-affiliated programs (Health Professions Scholarship Program), and current active duty physicians can apply through the Joint Services GME Selection Board.
- Vascular Surgery Residency Program
The integrated residency program in vascular surgery accepts two residents per year for the five-year program, one civilian and one from the U.S. Air Force.
- Internal Medicine Residency Program
In 2009, David Grant Medical Center established an internal medicine residency training program with the UC Davis Department of Internal Medicine. Residents receive the majority of their training at UC Davis Medical Center, and at the medical center's affiliated VA and Kaiser affiliates.
- Military Student Interest Group
The Military Medicine Student Interest Group is primarily intended for UC Davis medical students pursuing careers in the armed forces. The group serves as an important resource for sharing information about opportunities and challenges in training for and later providing medical care to U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.
- Military Faculty Mentors
The School of Medicine's Office of Student Wellness provides faculty members who have served in the military or still retain some form of active status to serve as mentors to medical students who are veterans, or are considering a career in military medicine. Faculty members offer counseling, advice and other support.
- Partnership with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
UC Davis Health has a long and successful partnership with the VA Northern California Health Care System. For example, UC Davis Medical Center provides care for veterans needing specialized services that are not available on-site at the VA. Nearly 400 university residents and more than 100 medical students are trained at the Sacramento VA Medical Center and the Martinez Outpatient Clinic and Center for Rehabilitation and Extended Care each year.
UC Davis also collaborates with VA colleagues on a variety of research studies, including studies conducted at the Sacramento VA Medical Center facility and the VA Outpatient Clinic and Center for Rehabilitation and Extended Care in Martinez.