AUGUSTA, Ga. – A small Minnesota-based medical direction and support-company and Georgia's public medical school have teamed up to provide supplemental medical support to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's field operations.
Vighter Medical Group and the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University have signed a five-year contract that ensures the FBI always has physician or medic support on the ground or on the phone as needed to support the FBI's field operations. The contract also includes arranging transport of injured individuals to medical facilities, setting up field hospitals when needed and training the FBI medics.
The front line includes Dr. Jeffery A. Lee, CEO of Vighter, a retired military medical officer and former U.S. Army Special Forces Medic; Rob Mulry, Director of the MCG Center of Operational Medicine, a retired FBI medic; and Dr. Richard Schwartz, Chairman of the MCG Department of Emergency Medicine and, a former member of the U.S. Army's Special Forces who has led the contract with the FBI for 10 years and, worked closely with the Drug Enforcement Agency, the military and other police agencies to optimize safety and survival in high-risk operations.
This is the second renewal of a five-year contract with the FBI for MCG but the first partnership with Vighter to provide the support services. The pairing was prompted by a new federal contract requirement that a small business take the lead but proved a logical fit because of the two groups' respective expertise. In fact, Lee and Schwartz immediately thought they'd make good partners in the venture.
"Our capabilities line up very well," said Schwartz. Vighter provides primarily additional medic as well as occupational medicine support to a field operation either by phone or in person and MCG provides primarily physician support. "How it works depends on what the bureau needs. If there is a need for direct medical support from emergency physicians, the bureau will contact me directly. We already have a process that works well. If there is a need for medic staffing or occupational medicine support, they will go directly to Vighter and Dr. Lee."
Vighter oversees 60 medics skilled in these on-the-scene maneuvers with other non-medical organizations in high-risk areas such as ground operations to support the war effort in Afghanistan.
About one-third of MCG's 35 emergency medicine physicians have the Department of Justice security clearance needed to work with the FBI. Additionally, MCG currently has one medic assigned full time to the FBI in Quantico, Va., and works closely to assist FBI operational medical providers on a regular basis. This includes bringing FBI medics to the Georgia Regents Health System for hands on training in areas such as the operating room and emergency department.
"We will deploy with the FBI as needed," Schwartz said. "If there is a large field operation that is very remote from what we would consider modern medical facilities, for example, we have the capability of setting up a surgical unit close to the site of the operation where we can stabilize casualties and determine how to get them from that location to where they can safely get the definitive medical care they need."
"Perhaps especially for a small organization like ours, it's an incredible privilege to support the premier law enforcement agency in the world, and we're pleased to team with MCG to do this," Lee said. "It's a huge big deal for us."
Schwartz concurs. "It's exciting that we have the continuing opportunity to support the FBI and the new relationship with Vighter takes that support to the next level," he said.
Vighter, (see http://www.vighter.com) founded five years ago and based in Winona, Minn., regularly works with government organizations, such as the U.S. Department of Defense and Department of State, as well as corporations around the world.
MCG's Center for Operational Medicine (see http://www.georgiahealth.edu/ems/COM/) works with local and state police, as well as the FBI and other federal agencies to provide medical training and support to their forces as well as the medics assigned to them.
In fact, the MCG center developed a Special Tactics for Operational Rescue and Medicine (STORM) course patterned after the military's Tactical Combat Casualty Care course, for front-line agents in the FBI and other federal agencies that helps law enforcement personnel take better care of each other.
The center also has helped develop a series of courses now used around the world that help a wide array of providers – from police to paramedics to hospital administrators and firefighters – work optimally together in the aftermath of natural and manmade disasters.