Managing a vital mission
During the decade-plus that Major Gen. David Rubenstein has served in a series of senior leadership positions in the U.S. Army’s medical operations, he and his colleagues have faced a series of challenges related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
As the first nonphysician commander of the Landstuhl (Germany) Regional Medical Center from 2001 to 2003, Rubenstein converted a peacetime tertiary-care referral center to a receiving hospital for casualties from both fronts. “We kept the peacetime mission going while adding the wartime mission,” he says. “We didn’t stop one (function) to start the other.”
As Army deputy surgeon general from 2008 to 2010, Rubenstein essentially served as chief operating officer of an $11 billion global healthcare system. In his current role as commanding general of the Army Medical Department Center & School, as well as chief of the 23specialty Army Medical Service Corps, based at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Rubenstein, 57, envisions and designs medical training and battlefield equipment.
The school offers seven doctorate programs and six master’s degrees, and the center has made advances in care for casualties on the battlefield, including “a new tourniquet that is saving limbs, new clotting bandages that save lives,” he says. “We’re adapting to a different kind of enemy than we’ve fought before; we’re adapting to new ways to provide behavioral health in the combat zone.”
This improved training and equipment has brought the survival rate for casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan to about 90%—well above the 70% to nearly 80% in conflicts such as World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, Rubenstein says. “It’s because of how we train our combat medics, it’s because of better body armor and vehicle armor, it’s because of the ability to move patients very quickly to receive sophisticated care.”
For the American College of Healthcare Executives, which has named him its Gold Medal Award winner for nondelivery healthcare organizations, Rubenstein was a regent from 1999 to 2002, governor from 2002 to 2006 and then served in the leadership track, including chairman, from 2007 to 2010.
“I challenged all of us in healthcare to take a responsibility for mentoring and coaching the next generation of healthcare leaders,” he says. “Those of us who have years under our belt have a moral responsibility to prepare the next generation to take over for us.”