Biomedical Sciences Corps Week: Celebrating a proud heritage

  • Published
  • By 1st Lt. Phillip Mailloux and Tech. Sgt. Larendez Lindsey
  • 42nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Although the Biomedical Sciences Corps is a relatively new entity in the grand scheme of military history, in some ways it has ancient roots.

The BSC insignia of a serpent-entwined rod, also known as the "Staff of Asklepios," has been a symbol of healing and medicine ever since the year 300 BCE. Greek mythology holds that Asklepios was a god associated with healing and medicine who used the staff to help others evade death from illness and injury. The snake, because of its ability to shed its old skin, is thought to symbolize rejuvenation and healing. The staff is thought to represent assistance from people and equipment, which is required for recovery. Men and women in the BSC bring the representations found in the Staff of Asklepios to life and they do it incredibly well.

Shortly after the Air Force became a separate branch of the military, the need for independent medical care was also recognized. As a result, the Air Force Medical Service was established in the summer of 1949 through Air Force General Order 35, which created the medical, dental, veterinary, medical service, nurse and women's medical specialist corps. In 1965, the BSC replaced the Women's Medical Specialist Corps and also incorporated some components of the Medical Service Corps.

As part of the AFMS, the BSC contributes to fulfilling the vision of world-class healthcare for beneficiaries anywhere and anytime through the work of its physical therapists, optometrists, podiatrists, audiology and speech pathologists, psychologists, social workers, physician assistants, occupational therapists, aerospace physiologists, biomedical scientists, clinical dietitians, bioenvironmental engineers, public health officers, medical entomologists, pharmacists, medical lab officers and health physicists.

These BSC officers rely heavily on enlisted members, who perform technical duties for all 17 career fields. For example, physical therapy technicians train patients in exercises and activities of daily living and conduct treatments utilizing special equipment and procedures. Aside from these technical tasks, enlisted technicians are usually the first members to have contact with a patient. They truly set the tone for the medical facility. While this is only one example of the importance of enlisted members, the concept applies to the entire career field.

The Air Force is officially recognizing the crucial work of this corps with BSC Appreciation Week, Jan. 27-31. The week is intended to celebrate all 17 career fields, which come together to provide a broad spectrum of clinical and scientific expertise for our beneficiaries. This collaboration among BSC career fields and other AFMS Corps has resulted in record-setting declines in disease non-battle injuries, as well as increases in survivability from wounds.

In the absence of such a comprehensive medical service, it was commonplace for diseases to kill more troops than combat wounds. Even as recently as World War II, disease accounted for approximately 85 percent of all hospitalizations. The BSC has played a vital role in bringing this number down to approximately 4 percent. Not only has the BSC played a major role in the prevention of disease, but also in recovery and treatment following combat injuries. A service member in the Vietnam War had a 76.4 percent chance of survival after suffering a combat injury and now the number is approaching 95 percent.

To celebrate the significant contributions of the BSC, the 42nd Medical Group has many activities planned to help observe BSC Appreciation Week.