Two partners, limitless possibilities

MedAssets and Scripps Health – partnering in patient care.

For MedAssets and Scripps Health, taking care of patients knows no bounds – literally. Whether they are sending medical teams to the heart of New Orleans following hurricane devastation from Katrina or to Haiti in the wake of its massive earthquake, the two organizations are longtime partners when it comes to serving those in need. Recently, MedAssets and Scripps Health (San Diego, Calif.) teamed up once again to raise awareness and funds to send a group of well-deserving Marines to their upcoming homecoming ball.

Dubbed the “Eat Like a Marine” fundraiser, its goal is to cover the $48 ticket expense for 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines – a group of soldiers that returned home in April after spending seven months in one of the most dangerous war zones in Afghanistan. “The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines has suffered the highest casualty rate of any unit in the Marine Corps during this conflict,” says Frank Motley, director of contracting and purchasing, Scripps Health. “The Sangin District in southern Afghanistan [has been] a Taliban stronghold. When the British gave up this area to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines in September, they had suffered significant casualties. The Afghan Government and the British had nearly 33 percent casualties. It was considered by some to be unwinnable. When 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines took over, they took immediate casualties. In the end, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines lost 25 Marines and had over 140 wounded – a ratio of nearly one in four. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines has a remarkably valiant history. The fifth Marine Regiment is the most decorated Regiment in the Marine Corps. This chapter adds to that brutal legacy.”

“This Battalion has been more highly impacted than any other across the country,” adds Mark Hess, senior vice president, West zone, spend management solutions, MedAssets. “We’ve been working on this fundraiser for a few months.” Following a chain of e-mails that originated with a physician based in Afghanistan, the need to help the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines caught the attention of Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder, who then reached out to John Bardis, CEO, MedAssets. Bardis was on board immediately, notes Hess. Just as he supported the health system’s efforts to deploy a team of physicians and clinicians to New Orleans to provide care in the wake of Katrina, and recently did the same for Haiti, Bardis volunteered the support of his organization to help raise necessary funds to make the Marine Corps Homecoming Ball a positive experience for the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines.

Exceeding its goal
At press time, the “Eat Like A Marine” fundraiser was quickly approaching its goal to raise $144,000 and expected to exceed it, according to Motley. “We initially reached out to the top 200 business partners of Scripps Health, based on overall spend, but the idea had such a positive impact, we opened it up to other medical supply vendors, all of whom are business partners with MedAssets,” he explains. “We have currently exceeded $100,000, and we have promises that will put us over the $144,000 mark. Right now, we have over 50 vendors participating. On Aug. 18, 2011, Scripps Health and MedAssets will host a thank you reception for sponsors at Schaetzel Center, Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla (San Diego, Calif.).

“Our initial intent was to eliminate the cost of the $48 Ball ticket for every Marine in the Battalion,” Motley continues. Tickets cover the meal, ceremony and mementos. “As funds continue to rise, we will use any overflow to accommodate transportation to and from Las Vegas and hotel accommodations,” he says, adding that about 1,400 Marines, friends and family members are expected to attend the Ball.

Happy birthday
The Marine Corps Homecoming Ball has special meaning for the newly returned 3/5 Marines. Typically, a Marine ball is held in November to commemorate the birth of the Marine Corps on Nov. 10, 1775, according to Motley. “Every unit in the Marine Corps celebrates the birthday ball, whether it is in a grand ballroom or a dimly lit tent,” he says. “The celebration is a formal event and generally has a guest of honor, a color guard and a ceremony honoring the youngest and oldest Marines present. A birthday cake is the focal point of the ceremony, and pieces of cake are given from the oldest to the youngest, symbolizing the passing of knowledge and tradition from one generation to the next.”

The ceremony is followed up with dancing and festivities, Motley continues. “It is a bonding event for Marines,” he points out. “Since 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines deployed in September for Afghanistan, they missed their normally scheduled ball. The Command decided to ‘make up’ their missed ball by hosting a birthday/homecoming ball in Las Vegas in June, following their return from Afghanistan.

For now, though, commanders are doing what they can to help the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines ease back into their former lives. Upon its return, the unit was ordered to be kept intact for three months to permit troops to collectively decompress from the violence they experienced. Officials from Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego reportedly hoped to intervene with mental health professionals and other resources before troops developed post-traumatic stress disorder.

“The violence these young Marines have been exposed to rivals that of any combat veteran,” says Motley. “The recovery may never fully take place, but many programs are in place to assist these battle weary heroes.”

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