By James Spellman, Jr., Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs
/ Published June 26, 2015
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE, El Segundo, Calif. -- With the simple, yet time-honored and traditional phrase, "Ma'am, I assume command," Col. (Dr.) Paul J. Hoerner accepted the 61st Medical Squadron ceremonial guidon from Col. Donna Turner, 61st Air Base Group commander during an assumption of command ceremony today at the Gordon Conference Center.
Hoerner becomes the newest commander of the 61st MDS, responsible for ensuring more than 1,200 active duty personnel assigned to the Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, are medically fit and ready for contingency (natural disasters and wartime) operations. Additionally, he commands a staff of 178 active duty, government civilians and contract medical staff providing care for more than 171,000 eligible patients across the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area.
Hoerner has direct responsibility and control over the medical clinic's $8.2 million annual budget and ensures the integrity of 13,000 annual specialty referrals to the local civilian network. He is also responsible for the facility infrastructure of both the main clinic and a remote primary care satellite clinic.
In a departure from her prepared remarks during the ceremony, Col. Turner took a moment to recognize and coin Col. John McFarlane, the current administrator of the 61st MDS. McFarlane spent the past six months in the dual-hatted role of acting commander of the medical clinic.
"Your calm, focused and compassionate attitude was perfect and exactly what was needed," Turner said. "You led from the front, epitomizing the Air Force core values. I sincerely thank you for your leadership."
Turner then addressed the formation of medics, lauding the squadron as a critical enabler for the Space and Missile Systems Center and Los Angeles Air Force Base.
"The men and women of the 61st MDS have done magnificent work across the installation and not just within the squadron. You participate and volunteer in every event that happens and you have conquered many challenges, from a highly successful Compliance Assessment Program inspection, numerous major command and Air Force level awards to most recently a three-year Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Healthcare accreditation," Turner said.
"All of these successes are testaments to your hard work and commitment. You are very dedicated to the mission, taking care of Airmen and serving our community. Your efforts are very much appreciated across the installation," Turner added. "This is a special place. This squadron has a special mission and is executed by special people. That's who you are and that's what you do. I know you will continue to do well for your new commander."
Hoerner echoed Turner's comments, thanking the medical staff for "committing to something greater than yourself. Serving as medics in our Air Force and embracing the climate of respect with 'Integrity First, Service before Self and Excellence in all we do'," he said.
"Recently, national healthcare has been in the news a lot. We all know that improving our national healthcare system is a huge topic across the nation," Hoerner acknowledged. "When a patient comes to the 61st Medical clinic, they typically aren't concerned with national healthcare politics, because at the moment, you are our nation's healthcare system to them. We either get it right and help them improve their quality of life, or miss the opportunity to help them heal."
"You have been entrusted with the health of the Air Force's most important weapon system: Airman - and from what I've read from your AAAHC inspection, you are doing an outstanding job with those Airmen," Hoerner said.
"Don't lose sight of your Air Force's overall mission: 'To Fly, Fight and Win,' because you are an incredibly important part of how the mission gets done. To that patient, you are not just another medical clinic, you are their personal trusted medical professionals . . . I want you to get to know our patients and connect with them and to be passionate about your role and its impact."
A native of New Orleans and 1986 graduate with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree from Northeast Louisiana University, Hoerner began his Air Force medical career as chief of the satellite pharmacy and chief of the inpatient pharmacy at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
Hoerner's most recent assignment was pharmacy flight commander of the 10th Medical Group at the U.S. Air Force Academy, and the Academy's consultants for Pharmacy and the Biomedical Sciences Corps. He led pharmacy operations at the U.S. Air Force Academy's medical clinic which supports the Academy's mission. In his role of pharmacy flight commander, he led the Pike's Peak Joint Refill Center and processed more than 50,000 refills monthly for Buckley, Peterson and Schriever Air Force Bases, the U.S. Army's Fort Carson and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Additionally, he was the pharmacy functional advisor for the Colorado Springs Military Health System.
Hoerner previously served as the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Mobility Command's pharmacy consultant, deputy director and director of the Department of Defense patient safety center where he was responsible for improving the patient safety of 576 DoD medical treatment facilities worldwide. While an adjunct faculty member at the Uniformed Services University for Health Sciences, he helped improve education and research in patient safety and pharmacoeconomics.
Additionally, he established the first interagency patient safety data sharing agreement between DoD, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Food and Drug Administration. He was also instrumental in gaining a $5 million grant from the FDA to launch the pilot test project that became the DoD Pharmacovigilance Center.
Immediately before arriving at the PSC, he completed a one-year Air Force Institute of Technology fellowship at a leading medical malpractice insurance company. Previous to that assignment, he was chief of pharmacy operations at David Grant USAF Medical Center, Travis Air Force Base, Calif., the Air Force Medical Service's flagship medical center and largest treatment facility in the United States.
Hoerner's awards and decorations include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Air Force Meritorious Service Medal with four oak leaf clusters, Air Force Commendation Medal, Air Force Achievement Medal with one oak leaf cluster, Air Force Meritorious Unit Award, Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with seven oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal with Bronze Star, Afghanistan Campaign Medal with bronze star, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Nuclear Deterrence Operations Service Medal.