MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – WVU Medicine has formed a new partnership with the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as the Green Berets, to be the first academic medical center in the country to host clinical rotations for soldiers training to become Special Forces Medical Sergeants.
The development of this partnership started with George Bal, M.D., WVU Medicine orthopaedic surgeon and combat-serving veteran with the 82nd Airborne, who heard that the Army was looking for hospitals willing to serve as clinical training sites for its Special Forces soldiers. Dr. Bal then reached out to Alison Wilson, M.D., director of the WVU Medicine Jon Michael Moore Trauma Center, to see if she thought WVU Medicine’s Ruby Memorial Hospital could be one of those sites.
Dr. Wilson, hospital administration, and healthcare professionals across the institution were eager to help. Drs. Bal and Wilson head up WVU Medicine’s portion of the partnership, which will bring small groups of soldiers to Morgantown for 28-day training periods several times throughout the year.
The training is part of the Army’s Special Forces Qualification Course. By the time they arrive in Morgantown, the soldiers going through the course have already completed extensive training in laboratory, veterinary, and surgical medicine and are considered one of the highest trained trauma medics in the U.S. military inventory.
“From my experience working as an instructor with the 82nd, I know how well trained and motivated these guys are going into this training,” Bal said. “It’s a real privilege for us to be involved with such great individuals, and I think our staff members will have a wonderful, mutually beneficial time working with them.”
While at WVU Medicine, they will work in a variety of clinical areas, including obstetrics, pediatrics, oral and maxillofacial surgery, nursing, anesthesiology, general surgery, emergency medicine, and otolaryngology.
After graduating from the Special Forces Qualification Course, these new medics will be assigned to an Operational Detachment Alpha and deployed to the most austere locations in the world. They are typically solely responsible for the care of their team mates and the indigenous forces they train. The Special Forces medic will most often be the highest trained medical provider available.
According to the Special Forces Medical Sergeant Course Director, Maj. Steve McKellar, “The Special Forces medic will often find himself in a remote area with little to no medical support. If he is dealing with a life-threatening injury or serious illness, patient evacuation could take days, and that is not a position any provider wants to find himself in. A strong foundation of medical knowledge is imperative to ensure a medic’s success, and the medical staff at WVU is helping us provide that. The quality of training at WVU is unmatched, and it has quickly become the most sought-after training site amongst the students, for good reason.”
Wilson added that several soldiers go on to train to be physician assistants or attend medical school to become doctors when their military obligations have been completed.
“We are honored that the Army’s most elite fighting force – the best of the best – chose WVU Medicine to be the first civilian site for this training,” Wilson said. “And, if any of these soldiers do decide to pursue careers in healthcare after their tours have ended, we hope they will come back to their Mountaineer family here at WVU.”