While thinking about the upcoming change of command scheduled later this month, Col. Mark W. Thompson took time to reflect on his last two years as the U.S. Army Medical Department Activity – Fort Drum commander, including the challenges and achievements during his tenure.
“Our team has accomplished a great deal over the past two years, but I think the greatest accomplishment we have made is reconnecting with our surrounding community, both on and outside of Fort Drum,” Thompson said. “I think with our current and future fiscal challenges, those relationships will be vital in helping us continue to deliver the service required by our beneficiaries.”
Accomplishments that Thompson and the MEDDAC team have made as an organization include instituting Patient Centered Medical Home; a National Committee for Quality Assurance Level III recognition of that practice; expansion of the Behavioral Health System of Care with creation of embedded behavioral health teams; creation of the Partial Hospitalization Program at River Hospital; establishing the Child and Family Assistance Center at Guthrie to grow Family-centered behavioral health care; and an agreement by Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, to grow its inpatient Behavioral Health ward to help cover Fort Drum’s inpatient needs.
In addition, Thompson said there have been significant improvements to the MEDDAC’s Joint Commission compliance in the past two years, which has resulted in excellent marks on the latest survey.
He also noted that communication has improved with MEDDAC personnel and with the community as a whole.
“Getting ‘communication’ perfect is probably an impossible task,” he said, “but I hope with our efforts to communicate in multiple venues (in person, online, through social media, commander's calls, brown bag lunches, Community Leaders Information Forums, town halls) we have been able to get timely information to both our patients and our staff.”
Thompson noted that challenges remain for MEDDAC, with the most immediate being the fiscal challenge. He said that in recent years, through several command teams, the MEDDAC has grown and realigned itself to provide service to a division at war and their medical needs, to include Family Members. The current fiscal challenges and accompanying hiring freeze and furlough puts this hard work at risk.
“Continuing to realign ourselves to meet this new fiscal reality while still serving the 10th Mountain Division (LI) and our beneficiaries will be a significant challenge for the new MEDDAC commander,” he said.
Thompson already has been talking to the incoming MEDDAC commander, Col. Matthew E. Mattner, and told him that he has a great organization with dedicated employees and Soldiers. He also expressed that the new commander’s biggest task will be setting the parameters by which he wants the MEDDAC to function and then getting out of the way and watching the MEDDAC staff do great things.
Meanwhile, Thompson said he has enjoyed commanding the MEDDAC.
“It has been the most professionally challenging experience of my life and, aside from my time commanding a combat support hospital in Afghanistan, the most professionally rewarding,” he said. “I have learned a great deal from my fellow commanders on Fort Drum and within Northern Regional Medical Command, my command staff and from the staff of the MEDDAC as a whole. I feel like I have grown tremendously as an officer, physician and leader, and I hope others see and feel that as well.”
As Thompson prepares for his next assignment, as chief consultant and chief of clinical services at Joint Base San Antonio, he has thought about what he would like his legacy to be when he leaves Fort Drum.
“I think most commanders would want their legacy to be simply that the unit is better today than on the day I took over,” he said. “I think we, as a team, have done a number of things to hopefully meet that mark. And I emphasize that it is the team that has done those things. I have simply had the honor of being able to lead it.”