Air Force, UC Davis Health partnership reaches new heights

New agreements with Travis AFB strengthen health care collaboration


The ability to respond quickly to an evolving situation is one of the hallmarks of a good physician or nurse. It’s crucial in an emergency room or an operating room, whether it’s in a big city or in a war zone.

  A new streamlined partnership between David Grant USAF Medical Center and UC Davis Medical Center benefits all patients.
A new streamlined partnership between David Grant USAF Medical Center and UC Davis Medical Center benefits all patients.

Now, thanks to a pair of new partnership agreements between David Grant USAF Medical Center (DGMC) at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield and UC Davis Medical Center, it will be much easier for health care professionals and trainees to gain clinical experience at both institutions.

The partnership began in 1995 with an Air Force residency rotation in trauma surgery at the medical center in Sacramento. The program has been steadily expanding into a variety of departments and disciplines ever since. It now encompasses everything from emergency medicine and nursing to physician assistants and medical technicians.

However, given the institutional complexities of a university and the military – with additional layers involving licensure, credentialing and medical liability, to name a few – the seemingly simple goal of providing a work or training position required lengthy conversations, personal contacts and volumes of legal paperwork.

After more than a year of hard work, UC Davis Health and DGMC have put together two agreements that cover physicians and non-physicians in a way that tightens the seams on a long and productive collaboration between the two health systems. The agreements streamline the process and make the partnership truly seamless.

“We’ve now got a highway in place so physicians, nurses, and other allied health professionals can easily travel back and forth between our two health systems,” said Joseph Galante, chief of trauma, acute care surgery and surgical critical care for UC Davis Health.  “It means even better and more immediate opportunities to exchange health care experiences and ideas.”

For the Air Force’s David Grant Medical Center, the effort provides the critical foundation for enhancing the military-civilian partnership. That, in turn, enables the Air Force to further strengthen its military-medical readiness platform so it is always fully prepared.

“We will now have more options and flexibility with timing to support individual as well as team-based solutions for military medics so they can gain needed exposure to high-volume, high-acuity patient care over the wide range of clinical environments that UC Davis Medical Center offers,” said Rachel Hight, a retired Air Force colonel and visiting associate professor of surgery who serves as the military-civilian partnership liaison for the two health systems.

Hight noted that new contracts can now be efficiently reviewed and modified at the local level. No longer will the two health systems have to repeatedly write up new agreements for individuals or teams of providers – agreements that required laborious reviews all the way up the chain of command to the Pentagon.

The work also strengthens the partnership between DGMC and UC Davis Health.  Even with changes in leadership, which occur on a regular basis, the agreements further cement the long-standing institutional priorities for the programs.

The partnership has long given medical residents and others a chance to train at UC Davis Medical Center to improve or maintain trauma skills. It improves provider readiness for sudden deployment to a war zone.

In turn, military doctors often bring to the medical center training and skills they developed dealing with combat injuries and managing situations with multiple trauma patients. That expertise ultimately enhances care for civilian patients.

The medical training system at David Grant fully integrates rotations, residencies and other work experiences at the UC Davis Medical Center. The Air Force has staff, fulltime faculty and residents embedded at the medical center in specialties ranging from internal medicine to vascular surgery to a cardio-thoracic intensive care rotation for nurses.

“As the area’s only regional academic medical center and level I trauma center, we’re proud to partner with DGMC,” said David Lubarsky, CEO of UC Davis Health and the university’s vice chancellor of human health sciences. “Many people don’t realize that David Grant Medical Center is the ‘Walter Reed of the West’ [Walter Reed, in Bethesda, Maryland, is nation's largest joint military medical center]. It’s responsible for supporting the health and healthcare delivery for our servicemembers across the western United States and the entire Pacific Rim. This builds on a large number of our own health system initiatives and formalizes our commitment to serve those who serve our country.” 

Lubarsky’s views were echoed by his counterpart at Travis Air Force Base, who also noted the benefits of the collaborations.

“During my tenure, our top three priorities are readiness, people and alliances,” said Gwendolyn Foster, U.S. Air Force colonel and commander of the 60th Medical Group at Travis Air Force Base. “This new collaboration [with UC Davis Health] touches all three, enabling our DGMC medics to be always ready as we support our warfighters, our families and our community. We are truly all in this together.”