Army recruiting teamwork on display at major medical conference

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Story by Derrick Crawford on 09/27/2017
Army medical recruiters pulled out the big nets hoping to catch the attention of the expected 5,000-plus family medicine physicians and medical professionals swarming the exhibit floor during the nation's largest annual family medicine conference.
Recruiters from the San Antonio Medical Recruiting Center teamed with U.S. Army Mission Support Battalion's National Conventions Division (NCD) staff to represent the Army among the throng of physicians and other exhibitors at the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) Family Medicine Experience 2017 or FMX 2017, held Sept. 13 16 at the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center in downtown San Antonio.
Approximately 1,166 health and medical care-related exhibitors participated in FMX 2017, where physicians and medical students attend educational lectures and workshops to hone their skills and earn continuing medical education credits required by the American Medical Association, according to the AAFP FMX 2017 website. The event and others like it create an opportunity for U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) to put medical recruiters in a position to directly engage their target audience, said Lawrence Montgomery, an NCD exhibitor based at Fort Knox, Ky.
Montgomery is part of the team that supported San Antonio MRCr at the FMX 2017 event. He said the NCD team provides a full range of support that includes purchasing the exhibit space prior to the event, coordinating the transport, delivery and set up of the exhibit display at the event site, and also arranging the participation of subject matter experts (SME's). Once the event concludes, the NCD team tears down the exhibit and moves on to the next convention.
During a typical year, NCD teams oversee Army participation at an average of 14 major professional trade events across the country, said Montgomery. They lay the groundwork for a successful recruiting effort by literally doing the heavy lifting.
"How we make it easier is by taking all of the prep and setup work for the event from recruiters, so all they have to do is show up at the scheduled date and time to talk about the Army," explained Montgomery. "It's all a coordinated effort where everybody who's involved is in the mix, and it has to be in order to go off smoothly."
A realistic outcome for seasoned recruiters like Sgt. 1st Class Chad McLaughlin, lead recruiter for the San Antonio MRCr, may not mean identifying a ready applicant, but he knows any exposure to his target audience is vital.
"It's definitely an asset ," McLaughlin said, as groups of people buzzed around the exhibit, some angling to snare the Army-branded trinkets such as bags and Bluetooth speakers. "But at the end of the day, it's up to the recruiter to engage and talk to people. You can definitely tell there is a lack of knowledge of the benefits, incentives and programs available in the Army Medical Corps and Army medicine in general."
McLaughlin said the draw of the enhanced exhibit display definitely gives them a better chance to reach more people and bridge the information gap.
"The payout can be mixed," McLaughlin said. "I don't think there is as much payout as there could be with other resources and means of prospecting, but it's good for networking purposes."
For example, McLaughlin explained how, earlier in the day, he connected with a physician who is actually a colonel in the Individual Ready Reserve who is willing to be an SME he can call on to assist with future recruiting efforts.
Having SMEs to provide a "peer-to-peer" perspective is vital, according to Montgomery, who coordinated the participation of Maj. Timothy Thompson, an active duty family medicine physician who is a teaching faculty member at the Martin Army Community Hospital Family Medicine Residency Program in Fort Benning, Ga., and Lt. Col. Julie Hundertmark, Army Medical Corps recruiting integration officer with the Medical Recruiting Brigade at Fort Knox, Ky.
As a former recipient of the Army's Health Professions Scholarship Program, Thompson said he views his role as SME is to help shed light on the benefits and unique experiences that come with being an Army physician.
"I think the biggest concern is the unknown," Thompson said, recalling the thoughts he had before joining the Army. "I wondered what exactly I will be doing in the military as a physician."
Thompson said his goal is to take the mystery out of serving as a military physician. Hundertmark agrees and said SMEs can fill the void of the unknown when sharing their own personal experiences. "I think it's beneficial for the participants to be able to touch' an Army physician while they are here," she said.
In her role as recruiting integration officer, Hundertmark said she also examines how the team can improve the approach to recruiting physicians, how they are reached and what motivates physicians to seek more information about Army medicine.
It's that team-oriented approach that makes these events a success.
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