The New Face of Wright Patt
7:40 am
Wed June 1, 2011

Partnerships in Higher Education

June 1st marked the ribbon-cutting for the 711th Human Performance Wing that’s coming to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a result of BRAC. It brings new missions to the base and will strengthen existing ones, which means there’s even more opportunity to strengthen historic partnerships between the base and Wright State University and keep student and faculty research in the Miami Valley well after graduation.  Juliet Fromholt reports on the base’s partnerships in higher education.

On a sunny day in May, members of the Air Force join civilian firefighters and medical students on a simulated rescue mission of a structural collapse in Fairborn, Ohio. Major John Dorsch helped set up the scenario for this drill at Calamityville. It’s an old cement plant that’s been converted into a training site for emergency response. Dorsch is one of the chief emergency medicine residents in a collaborative program between Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Wright State University.

June 1st marked the ribbon-cutting for the 711th Human Performance Wing that’s coming to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as a result of BRAC. It brings new missions to the base and will strengthen existing ones, which means there’s even more opportunity to strengthen historic partnerships between the base and Wright State University and keep student and faculty research in the Miami Valley well after graduation.

“Sometimes they have on blue and sometimes they have on scrubs”

Collaboration between the base and the university medical programs isn’t new. In the mid 70′s, Wright-Patterson and Wright State began a partnership with 9 medical residency programs in the Miami Valley. As a result when many service members graduate from med school, they do their residency alongside civilian students from Wright State.

They train side by side. Sometimes they have on blue and sometimes they have on scrubs or white coats,” says Dr. Albert Painter with Wright State’s Boonshoft School of Medicine.

The residency program is one part of the partnership between the base and the university. Another part, Painter says, is that a number of Air Force physicians are staff members at Wright State. And soon the Air Force’s School of Aerospace Medicine will be another medical partner. It’s re-locating to the Miami Valley as a result of BRAC.

“They’re going to be new partners for us, and they’ll sit around the table with all the residency directors that we already have in terms of new programs, sharing information, being able to share clinical experiences and so on and so forth,” says Painter.

“Creative thought in engineering”

The School of Aerospace Medicine is part of the 711th Human Performance Wing that’s moving the bulk of its operations from San Antonio to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. But Human Performance doesn’t just mean medicine. The Air Force is also working with students in psychology, engineering, even business, and many of those students are thinking about staying in the Miami Valley after graduation.

“There’s a lot of opportunities for the mechanical engineering side of things, and there’s a lot of positions for advancement,” says Zach Hafner, a third year engineering student at Wright State. He’s working on an Aero Design project for the Air Force that also involves local companies. Hafner says that when it comes to collaboration creativity is key.

“Being able to include creative thought in engineering will be able to help come up with new ideas, new designs. Being able to think critically and logically go hand in hand with being able to be creative at the same time,” says Hafner.

“A regional one-stop shop”

That type of creative-collaborative work is one of the founding tenets of the Wright State Research Institute which has been working with the Air Force regularly since opening in 2007. Director Ryan Fendley says that he’s most proud of the Institute’s Human Performance consortium, an Institute-led initiative involving academia, industry and nonprofit partners.

“We’ve really worked to create a regional one-stop shop here the Air Force can come and tell us “In Human Performance, these are our big challenges…now we want you to go out and find the expertise given that we don’t care where it is and and we don’t care who they work for,” says Fendley.

The Institute helps find resources for projects. Fendley says they’ll find those resources wherever they can, but he’s happy to be working with a lot of people in the Dayton region.

“When you look at the work or the priorities of the Air Force, a critical mass of expertise actually exists here in the region that the Air Force would have a very difficult time tapping into individually. But by bringing that together collectively, we’ve raised the profile of the capability of the university and the region in this area and the Air Force goes ‘Oh Wow, it really is here,’” says Fendley.

Raising those profiles is important to him because it means students can stay in the Miami Valley and continue their research and their careers.