Perspective: Recognizing and Honoring Our Federal and Military Health Systems

The government’s announcement last week that more than half of all adults in the U.S. have received at least one COVID-19 shot is a remarkable feat that outperforms earlier predictions about the pace of vaccinations across the country.  

And it should come as no surprise that our federal health system — which has done so much over the years to save lives, perform miracles and keep people healthy — played a prominent role in this still-evolving vaccine victory.  

A case in point: Operation Warp Speed … the drive to rapidly move vaccines from laboratories through vigorous testing into the general population. For this public-private partnership, designed in part by an Air Force brigadier general, it was mission accomplished in making vaccines available in record time.  
Like their civilian counterparts, our federal and military health care professionals have played an integral role in fighting the battle against COVID-19 over the past year. We owe them all a special debt of gratitude. 

Accelerating the pace of vaccine development and distribution during the pandemic is just the latest in a long list of major contributions to public health made by the dedicated professionals in our federal and military health systems.   

In fact, our federal health system, which encompasses not only the military health care branches — the Army, Air Force, Coast Guard and Navy — but also the Veterans Healthcare Administration and the health care facilities of the Department of Defense and Indian Health Service, is the origin of many great improvements to modern medicine, such as the ultrasound, ice packs, reconstructive surgery, the EpiPen and even the ambulance, to name just a few.

The women and men serving in our federal health system are an invaluable resource to our nation. They provide critical care to so many … including those on the front lines of combat; those on active duty, as well their families; those who honorably served our country; and our Native American citizens.

The AHA considers it an honor and privilege to be an active partner with our federal health system. For that reason, it is a pleasure each year to recognize the excellent work of outstanding individuals within the federal system, as I had the opportunity to do on Wednesday with AHA’s Federal Healthcare Executive Awards. Due to the pandemic, we covered award years 2019 and 2020.

  • 2019 Federal Health Care Executive Award for Excellence – Col. Jennifer A. Brooks, M.D., U.S. Air Force, for her clinical operation efficiencies that increased the number of mission-ready airmen.
  • 2019 Special Achievement Award – Jennifer Koget, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, for her leadership of a partnership between the VA and the Fisher House Foundation that provides free temporary accommodations for families of hospitalized veterans and active duty service members.  
  • 2020 Federal Health Care Executive Award for Excellence to Brig. Gen. John J. Bartrum, U.S. Air Force, for his leadership in the design of Operation Warp Speed. 
  • 2020 Special Achievement Award – Lt. Col. Jason P. Richter, U.S. Air Force, for his success in leading a telehealth program at his base clinic.  

Congratulations to these four exceptional award winners. They represent the best of our federal and military health care systems … and the best of America.