Making Dr. Airman

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Joe Yanik
  • Air Force District of Washington Public Affairs

(This story is the eighth of 10 stories about the more than 1,500 Air Force health care professionals who make up the 11th Medical Group and the vast expertise they bring to executing the organization's mission of providing medical services for expeditionary deployment and defense operations in the National Capital Region and around the world. Editor’s note: Previous stories of this series were published under the now-inactivated 79th Medical Wing.)


FORT BELVOIR, Va. - Across the National Capital Region, Capital Medics of the 11th Medical Group deliver 42 world-class healthcare specialties to hundreds of thousands of beneficiaries. To be proficient in their jobs, all of the Airmen undergo some kind of rigorous formal education and training that enable them to be Excellent In All They Do.


For some new Air Force doctors, this means stepping out of the classroom and into an operational medical clinic as a resident family medicine physician.


Dr. (Maj.) William Bynum, 11th Medical Group, is one of the attending faculty members assigned to the National Capital Consortium Family Medicine Residency Program at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, Va., where today’s clinical residents are formed into tomorrow’s officer leaders and expert family medicine providers.


As a faculty member, Bynum takes an active role in educating and supervising junior officers who enter the 3-year residency program.


“Our program’s goal is to prepare residents to practice autonomously as excellent family medicine physicians in a busy clinical environment treating Wounded Warriors, active duty members and other beneficiaries of all ages with a wide spectrum of medical needs,” said Bynum. “Equally important is ensuring they receive formation as officers by knowing customs and courtesies, understanding military culture and being capable of working in operational environments as military physicians.”


Fort Belvoir Community Hospital delivers a breadth of medical capabilities to its approximately 250,000 patient beneficiaries. These capabilities range from a robust obstetrical service, newborn nursery, inpatient and intensive care, subspecialty consultant services and outpatient clinics.


“Our bread and butter at the residency program is running the outpatient clinic where we serve the medical needs for patients at all stages of life, from neo-natal and pediatrics to adolescent, adult and geriatric,” said Bynum.


New officers entering the residency program don’t have to wait very long to begin assuming physician responsibilities. First year residents, or interns, immediately begin managing a light schedule of patients that steadily grows into a full schedule toward the end of the 3-year program.


“While being heavily supervised and supported by faculty, the interns experience challenging learning curves that are steep and frequent,” said Bynum. “By the time they graduate, they have to be able to go out into the military to provide expert, competent care even though they were just recently a trainee.”


The standards in place for residents of the Family Medicine Program are no less demanding than their civilian counterparts.


“The training here is governed by national requirements that come through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education,” said Bynum. “Which means we are held to the exact same standards as any civilian hospital.”


ACGME is a body responsible for accrediting the majority of graduate medicine training programs in the U.S.


The Family Medicine Residency Program was stood up by the Army in the early 1970s; it then became a joint program in 2007 when it began accepting Air Force residents. Since 2011, when Navy residents began training in the program, it has become the military’s first and only tri-service family medicine training program.


Bynum has been assigned to the residency program at Fort Belvoir for his entire 7-year career as an Air Force officer, first as a resident then as a part of the faculty. From his own experience, he said that Air Force residents’ exposure to other services offers unique benefits to enhancing their operational readiness as military physicians when treating or working with Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines.


“I’ve personally found that the joint training environment here allowed me to be exponentially more effective in my job when I deployed in a situation where the Air Force was in the minority,” said Bynum.


Bynum said that one of the best aspects of being a resident in the program is having the opportunity to learn every day and being surrounded by others willing to teach. Another is the privilege to play a crucial role in the lives of the patients they treat, both during times of triumph and crisis.


Each aspect he said embodies the Air Force’s patient care philosophy tenets of patient-centeredness and leadership engagement.


“We are living the Air Force’s trusted care philosophy in a fulfilling way in a joint environment here at Fort Belvoir,” said Bynum.