C-STARS simulation center aims to modernize training, strengthen community partnerships

  • Published
  • By Aleah M. Castrejon
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio (AFRL) – The Air Force’s 711th Human Performance Wing, part of the Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, partnered with the University of Cincinnati to develop a state-of-the art simulation center for the Critical Care Air Transport, or CCAT, team at the Center for Sustainment of Trauma Readiness, or C-STARS, at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, in order to modernize training and strengthen community partnerships.   

“These [military-civilian] relationships are critical to us as a nation; they help us train our medics and sustain our skills needed for our unique operational medical missions, whether that's in peacetime or wartime,” said. Col. Tory Woodard, commander, U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, or USAFSAM, one of two mission units in the 711th Human Performance Wing, part of AFRL. “We really need to be ready at all times and these relationships help us to be ready.” 

The research center will help prepare for the next generation needs of aeromedical evacuation and critical care patient care, Woodard said. Similarly, Rep. Brad Wenstrup, D.P.M., (OH-2), noted that this partnership and center represent a valuable investment. 

"During my time as a surgeon in Iraq, CCATT ensured that the work we did in theater was completed at our bases in Germany, and back in the U.S., saving the lives of so many service members," said Wenstrup. "By investing in the already successful partnership between Wright Patterson Air Force Base and UC Health, we can make this program the model for any high-level national response, while also improving the training programs for our servicemembers so they are best prepared for the high-intensity operational mission." 

The $10-million-dollar project will go toward upgrading and expanding the training capacity and related research for Air Force CCAT training. The project is expected to be completed by summer 2025. 

“This expansion demonstrates UC Health's leadership in medical training and the impactful work happening in the region,” said Rep. Greg Landsman, (OH-01). 

“Our medical military employees deserve comprehensive training to deal with any critical situation. By expanding their education using cutting-edge technology, our service members will be able to provide the highest quality care.” 

The new center will provide a unique opportunity for both the C-STARS program, which hosts the CCAT course, and the University of Cincinnati.  

“It provides a capability for them to test, train and research large patient movement and different team compositions for the mission, and it is truly a collaborative effort,” said Col. (Dr.) Valerie Sams, director, C-STARS Cincinnati University of Cincinnati Medical Center Division of Trauma Critical Care. 

The simulation center will expand the community relationship and expand the Institute of Military Medicine within the University of Cincinnati, Sams said.  

“The university of Cincinnati has been such a great partner for us,” Woodard said. “We really appreciate their collaboration and cooperation with the Air Force. It has been outstanding over the years.” 

The University of Cincinnati is a national disaster management system site in the event of national disasters, pandemics and conflicts for casualty reception.  

“It truly is just a huge opportunity for us to push the boundaries of training, education and research in that space,” Sams said.  

This is unique because partnerships go beyond sustaining military member skills, Sams added.  

“It goes to the integration of how the military members are now preparing the civilian centers for receipt of combat casualties or the next pandemic,” she added. “So that is where I see the huge benefit of expanding this partnership.” 

The joint program between the Air Force and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center provides sustainment in trauma and critical care for military medical personnel to work alongside civilian counterparts. This allows for shared and expanded knowledge — benefitting the military and community.  

“The history of the military-civilian partnership here at the University of Cincinnati is one of the original partnerships that was born in the early 2000s, and it has really served the Greater Cincinnati area well by having our cadre completely embedded as clinical personnel within the University’s Center,” Sams said. “So, it kind of serves as an opportunity for skill sustainment for the military members, but also allows the greater Cincinnati community to be treated by highly skilled military health care providers.” 

For more than 20 years, the military has served in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and when it comes to medical care, Sams said the small CCAT teams have grown accustomed to the size of their team, consisting of a doctor, nurse and respiratory therapist. This team manages to care for up to three critical patients. 

“However, we know that the future fight, potentially with peer or near peer competitors, may not afford us the air superiority,” Sams said. “It may not afford us the time [and it] might lead to a whole different context in terms of what types of patients we would be taking care of.” 

While USAFSAM does support wartime missions, they also provide a national capability. 

“We move family members every week,” Woodard said. “If you're stationed [overseas] and your family member gets sick, we move them back to states. So, it's not just wartime injuries. We have a capability, and we create a capability for national patient movement or national patient care when needed. 

In planning for the critical care component, Sams said this simulation center will allow them to look at expanding the three-member teams, in turn being able to care for more critical patients.  

“Adding additional nurses, for instance, is one of the ways we're looking to move the training into the next generation,” Sams added. “So, we can treat more critical care patients en route than we have historically had to do with the smaller team.” 

The simulation center's primary importance lies in its capacity to enable the care of more patients, Sams added. This new facility will provide teams with opportunities to explore, test, and conduct research, ultimately enhancing patient care.

“UC Health has been a critical partner in supporting the Air Force’s research mission, and this new simulation center will empower the 711th Human Performance Wing to better address the challenges of modern warfighting,” said Congressman Mike Turner. “As the United States faces rising threats from our adversaries and near-peer competitors, it is imperative that our next generation of combat medics have the training and experience to assess trauma under the fixed time constraints of the battlefield. This expansion of C-STARS will equip our military personnel to provide servicemembers with the highest quality of care.” 

About AFRL 

The Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, is the primary scientific research and development center for the Department of the Air Force. AFRL plays an integral role in leading the discovery, development and integration of affordable warfighting technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a workforce of more than 12,500 across nine technology areas and 40 other operations across the globe, AFRL provides a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from fundamental to advanced research and technology development. For more information, visit www.afresearchlab.com.