Physical, occupational therapy symposium addresses AF improvements to operations

Hanscom AFB --  More than 70 leaders of the Air Force's physical and occupational therapy community gathered at the Hanscom Conference Center Monday through Thursday for the 2007 Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy Management Symposium. 

The symposium addressed improving Air Force wide daily garrison operations for efficiency and explained the changing PT/OT environment in deployed locations through briefings, discussions and break-out sessions. 

Brig. Gen. Theresa Casey, Air Force surgeon general's director of modernization and Air Force Biomedical Science Corps chief, addressed the audience Monday before heading back to the Pentagon. 

"We need to be good stewards of the taxpayers' money," she said. These efforts at maximizing results in the form of quality patient care while minimizing cost, she said, coincide with the Air Force-wide initiatives Air Force Smart Operations for the 21st Century and Lean. 

The general also said the deployed environment for physical therapists, occupational therapists and physical medicine technicians -- personnel that comprise the career field -- is changing. 

Some briefs at the symposium highlighted how these Airmen are now responsible for local national care, minor injury care and physical-injury prevention. These tasks either didn't exist in the past or were completed outside the area of operations. 

"[The symposium] is a great forum for crosstalk," General Casey said. 

Since the symposium comprised the leaders of the career field, it is their responsibility to take the information they learn from the symposium and their peers and apply it to and share it with their respective organizations, said Maj. Michelle Kastler, the chief of physical medicine courses at the 882nd Training Group at Sheppard AFB, Texas. Her organization trains all the enlisted members of the career field: physical medicine technicians. 

Capt. Michael Curtin, chief of physical therapy at the Hickam AFB, Hi., clinic, used the opportunity to make contact with the enlisted leaders. He said developing those relationships would help him in his leadership role at Hickam AFB. 

Traditionally, this every-other-year symposium is held at Sheppard AFB, but since some of these Airmen are also attending the American Physical Therapy Association's combined sections meeting at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, Hanscom received the symposium-hosting honors. 

Three members in the symposium received APTA board specialty certifications at the combined sections meeting this week.