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Healing our nation’s heroes: Navy physician’s unique role

By Pamela Jackson | | November 17, 2011

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Editor’s note:  This is the third article in a six-part series on the Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany.

As the only family medical physician at Naval Branch Health Clinic Albany, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Shannon Short, senior medical officer, takes care of everyone from the “cradle to grave.”

“I am the only physician at the clinic here, and responsible for the medical care of active-duty military, their children, eligible family members and retirees,” Short said.  “As the military officer for general leadership of military personnel, in collaboration with the officer-in-charge, I also supervise mid-level physician assistants, a nurse practitioner and an independent duty corpsman, to ensure the best care for all patients who visit the clinic.”

Short said she sees a little bit of everything from children’s well visits and common colds to orthopedic-type injuries in her daily practice at BHC Albany, where she serves nearly 20 patients a day.

“Active-duty military can have unique concerns, which require additional care such as traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder from one or more deployments,” she said.  “Unlike civilian medicine, which can be largely in reaction to health concerns, military medicine has an emphasis in preventive treatment because of the nature of the job.”

Short said the major difference she has seen between the civilian and military communities are military members are more invested in their health,  better at adhering to their treatment plans and following up on their health care. 

“Military personnel want to get better quicker,” she said.  “In the civilian sector, individuals will sometimes go for years without seeing a doctor, but uniformed personnel do not have that choice.  Mission readiness depends on their good health.”

Short said civilians can put off getting flu shots or other preventive care like physicals, but Marines and sailors don’t have that option.

“It is important for all military personnel to be healthy and in the best medical condition possible,” she added. “If they deploy and need some sort of care that was not addressed before they left, it means shipping them back and replacing them, which creates a void where they are needed and is very costly to the government.”

As the clinic’s primary care manager responsible for managing enrolled TRICARE patients’ care for enrolled patients, Short said it can sometimes be challenging and ‘relatively isolated’ as the only physician and not having a peer to bounce off ideas.

“We utilize a lot of the medical networks for our specialty services such as orthopedics, physical therapy and other specialty care our patients need,” she said.  “It can be cumbersome at times to coordinate all of these areas, but part of my responsibility is to ensure the patient is taken care of properly.”

Short said it is important to maintain relationships and be on the same page with medical providers out in town because she cannot adequately treat someone if she does not communicate with the other specialists.

A mother of three, Short said the difference in being a military physician vice a civilian one, is the potential to deploy and the other ‘hats’ she wears.

“As a military officer, I am responsible for more than just medical care, and leading the enlisted military service members we have here at the clinic,” she said. “Leading sailors is a whole different hat I have to wear, which is very different from your average doctor in the civilian sector.

“Navy personnel are deployed on ships and often with Marines in the field, so we always have to be medically ready, physically fit and current on our training because we can deploy at any moment,” Short added.  “I’m expected to adhere to the same physical standards as the rest of the sailors.”

Short said she has not been deployed, but has served on a ship before and medical resources are not as robust as they would be in the U.S., so medical professionals have to be more creative in how they treat patients in different situations.

Short completed her medical training in the civilian sector, then joined the Navy. 

A native of Highand, Mich., Short attended college at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., and medical school at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in Downers Grove, Ill.  She completed her Navy physician’s training at Naval Hospital Bremerton, Wash.

Master Sgt. Steven Piel, logistics chief, Logistics Support Division, Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, said Short is a breath of fresh air, very thorough and does what is necessary to take care of Marines and her other patients.

“My favorite part of this job is that I love serving the active-duty population for a lot of different reasons,” she said.  “They sacrificed a lot and as a group, they are active, enthusiastic, care about their country and care about their families.”

Short said military personnel are very passionate about what they do and considers it an honor to serve other uniformed members. 

“It has always been a joy to me to give back in this small way,” she said.  “Marines and other military personnel are the heroes of our nation and I have the privilege to aid in their healing and take care of them and their families.  This is the most rewarding job I can think of and I love it.”


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