AMRO: Medical program keeps Airmen mission ready

  • Published
  • By Kisha Foster Johnson
  • Robins Public Affairs

In order to fly, fight, and win, Airmen are the most important asset in the Air Force.

For that reason, the 78th Medical Group Airmen Medical Readiness Optimization program at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, makes sure each individual is ready for the rigors of active duty.

“We have to know if they are medically well enough to work and deploy,” said Maj. Anna Maruska, 78th Medical Group physician. “If we have a Type 1 diabetic, who is insulin dependent, they typically aren’t good candidates for military service. People with that condition have the potential to get really sick, really fast and possibly need to be hospitalized.”

The AMRO program started at Robins in June 2019.

Maruska said the change improved the way medical services are provided.

“Previously, two-thirds of my patients were dependents or retirees with complex medical problems and maybe one-third of those would be our uniform service members. So what we were doing was trying to juggle two different things at the same time.”

Under this current model, the primary care clinics are divided by the populations they serve: active duty or beneficiaries. 

Also, each squadron now has a dedicated medical team, led by a physician or physician assistant, and comprised of a nurse and two medical technicians.

Maruska oversees care for the 78th Security Forces Squadron.

“This helps us have a higher proportion of mission capable folks than we previously did,” said Maruska. “We are afforded time to interface with commanders of the various units, go on-site visits to actually see what they are doing, and first (sergeants) can get real time information from us about their Airmen.”

It is important to note, specific details of all medical reports remain confidential.

Primary Care Managers, like Maruska, inform supervisors whether or not an Airman is mission ready.

Chief Master Sgt. John Knisley with the 78th SFS, described the AMRO as essential to the squadron’s mission.

“The plan is a crucial piece of the readiness machine,” said Knisely. “Having Dr. Maruska embedded and personally invested in the health and readiness of our squadron is vital to maintaining a strong integrated defense posture for Team Robins.”

Knisley added the trust gained between the Airmen and Maruska is invaluable.

“Having our own doctor, which we are personally familiar with and is very responsive to us 24/7 for both emergent and routine issues, ensures around the clock care for all Defenders across all shifts. The AMRO plan has made a significant improvement in our medical readiness due to her willingness to treat the Airman and not the symptoms,” said Knisley.

Maruska said each medical team meets weekly to discuss patient care. The records of individuals with concerning medical conditions are forwarded to the AMRO board.

The AMRO board meets bi-weekly.

Those members review medical records and decide if a patient’s condition is serious enough to go before the Medical Evaluation Board for review.

MEB is the start of a process that could lead to the end of a person’s military career.

“Often patients know it’s a possibility based on their diagnosis or level of functioning,” said Maruska. “Just as often, patients feel well and are completely blindsided by the possibility of an MEB.  We try to explain the process and the possible outcomes, which usually reduces patient’s fears.”

Maruska admits her position is sometimes challenging.

“It is my duty to make sure I do right by my patients and the Air Force," said Maruska. "This means they have to be physically, mentally and emotionally ready to serve anywhere in the world.”