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From military to medicine: The call to service continues

Woman in military fatigues, helmet, in woods
Kim Evans, a former U.S. Army Medical Service Corps officer, poses in Grafenwoehr, Germany on a mission as an Ambulance Platoon Leader. At UT Southwestern she works in the Health System Quality Office and is one of our many veterans who use their military experience to help the Medical Center operate.

The military helps prepare service members to plan and respond to all kinds of threats and emergencies. In 2020, this skill has been invaluable.

For veterans who transitioned to a career at UT Southwestern, that readiness training has guided them in the face of a global threat – the coronavirus crisis.

Mark Raschke, Leadership Development Program Manager and a retired senior U.S. Army officer, said the mass shift to work-from-home in March was reminiscent of some challenges faced by active-duty soldiers during deployment.

Man in front of flags wearing US Army uniform
Mark Raschke, Leadership Development Program Manager and a retired senior U.S. Army officer

“In both scenarios, you find yourself in an uncertain environment where you are displaced from the people you normally see every day, and you need to communicate with and lead others who are geographically dispersed,” he said. “Simultaneously, you see others in your organization dealing with completely new types of stress and they’re all coping in different ways.”

These parallels made the insights of veterans increasingly important in shaping COVID-19 response efforts across the board.

For example, Robert Haas, Director of Materials Management and a retired U.S. Air Force senior logistics manager, used his past experience to take proactive measures amid the pandemic. He credits his time in the armed forces overseeing inventory control while stationed in South Korea with helping him to react quickly.   

In late January, Mr. Haas went into disaster preparedness mode from a supply chain perspective after reading about COVID-19 and bacterial filtration efficiency for medical face mask materials. His attention to detail and sharp decision-making helped the organization secure more N95 masks before a surge of COVID-19 cases hit the U.S.

“I finished my military career as a war planner, a role where you had to learn to adapt,” Mr. Haas said during a virtual Veterans Business Resource Group event in October. “We were taught step-by-step logistics of how to determine what you need, where, and when. The process makes you think outside of the box and see the big picture.”

Man outdoors in the snow wearing military camo
Robert Haas, Director of Materials Management, is a retired U.S. Air Force senior logistics manager. Here he's shown during service at Kunsan Air Base South Korea in 2009.

Former military personnel across UT Southwestern are consistently demonstrating the value of veterans in the workplace and just how much of their skills are transferable to the civilian world. At UTSW, veterans have built thriving careers within the health care industry while continuing to serve in ways that make their community a better place to live.

 “I think the reason that all of us are here is that we want to make a difference,” said Kim Evans, Management Engineer I for Quality and Operational Excellence and a former U.S. Army Medical Service Corps officer. “I could not imagine myself in any other industry.”

After graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1991, Ms. Evans served in a forward support battalion, where she trained to render aid to wounded troops about 25 miles from the front lines. Throughout her service, she held leadership roles in both field and fixed-facility medical support operations.

She said two things the military instills in a soldier are the mentality of striving for continuous improvement and the belief that every single person is essential to complete a mission. For many veterans, it is easy to relate their military values to those of UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Michael Dryer, a Registered Respiratory Therapist, said that in a hospital setting, regardless of the person’s role, everyone is working together toward a common goal: delivering excellent patient care.

Man in dress uniform in front of flag
Michael Dryer, a former Air Force financial supervisor, is now a Registered Respiratory Therapist at UTSW.

While serving in the Air Force as a financial supervisor, he discovered one of his greatest gifts, which he now uses daily: servant leadership. Each day, Mr. Dryer aims to create both teaching and learning moments with those he works alongside.

“The team culture at UT Southwestern is similar to that of the military,” he said. “Here we recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses and share skills and knowledge to make each other better for the benefit of the patient. All of our processes are intertwined. Whether you are ensuring another physician has all of the data they need or assisting a nurse who has had a hard day with moving a patient, it is all about stepping in and having each other’s back.”

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