The Army Medical Service has two basic missions. One is to provide the United States soldier with the highest standards of medical service that can be supported by the Nation in peacetime. The other is the increasingly complex task of organizing and training medical units to provide support to tactical units capable of fighting either a nuclear or conventional type of war.
These basic missions were accomplished in fiscal year 1958 despite such formidable handicaps as the constantly rising prices of material, higher salaries, new and costly techniques, serious shortages of specialists in certain categories, and a limited budget. To these difficulties may be added the increasing complexity of medical care itself, the new and more expensive drugs and antibiotics, the growing cost of specialized professional and technical training programs, and the problems involved in furnishing special services to patients in order to hasten recuperation and sustain morale.
Considerable improvement was made during the year in the procurement and retainment of Regular Army medical and dental officers. For the first time in 7 years, the number of volunteers was sufficient to meet all requirements and it was not necessary to resort to a special draft. The incentive-pay law of 1956 has been a major but not the sole reason for this improvement. The residency training program has been expanded, housing has been improved, better hospitals and facilities are being provided, and much of the bitterness engendered by the drafting of older doctors already established in private practice has been alleviated. Many qualified young physicians and dentists are being attracted to careers in the Army.
With the rapid development of nuclear and new conventional weapons capable of producing great numbers of casualties in a relatively short time, we may be faced with problems never before experienced in the handling of casualties. To cope with such an eventuality, we are conducting extensive programs for training personnel in methods of treating mass casualties. We are also putting much stress on preventive measures to reduce the medical workload in the event of nuclear warfare and on providing officers and enlisted men with a better knowledge of first aid in order to survive such warfare.
The Army Medical Service is also concerned with the physical and mental adjustment of troops to the utilization of new weapons and devices and to the effect they may have on the personnel who operate or
are exposed to them. For example, the increased use of radar in the Army presents the need for a system to measure radiation and evaluate the hazard. The radiation protection program has been expanded with the growing utilization of sources of ionizing radiation. The development and increasing use of missile fuels and oxidizers has made it necessary to establish medical and engineering controls to diminish the hazards involved.
These and many other problems are discussed in the narrative report that follows. This fiscal-year report may be considered a revival of the annual reports of The Surgeon General that date back to 1819.
S. B. HAYS,
The Surgeon General.