New commander takes the helm at Keesler Medical Center

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The 81st Medical Group at Keesler Medical Center has a new commander Colonel Tom Harrell. Col. Harrell takes the place of Brig. Gen. Kory Cornum.

Though Harrell has only been on the Coast for a few days, he's already set some goals for the medical center. WLOX caught up with the new commander to find out what those goals are and to learn more about his experience in the medical field.

When the Florida native learned he was transferring to Keesler Air Force Base from a base in Alaska, the cardiologist says he and his wife were thrilled they were coming back to the Gulf Coast.

"We were excited, first of all, to be down on the Gulf Coast. We're Florida natives and so I grew up in this area not too far from here around in Florida and so we're excited to be back in the south and be apart of the Gulf Coast," Harrell said.

Harrell says part of his plan for Keesler Medical Center is to build partnerships, something he did in Alaska.

"That was joint base Elmendorf-Richardson and that was a joint facility. So it was a DOD-VA facility. A joint venture. So we had VA employees, as well as, DOD employees in the facility. So that's my background. That's what I bring here to try to build those partnerships," said Harrell.

He says he's also looking at telemedicine, where patients don't have to leave where they're at for medical care. Making sure the hospital staff and medical residents are getting the most out of their training at Keesler is also a top priority.

"We're a training platform. So what we can do to expand our healthcare capacity not only takes care of our patients, but it keeps our wartime medical skills current. So we're all about training not only the airmen here on the wing, but our airmen here at the medical center," said Harrell.

In addition to directing education programs and training programs, Harrell leads 1,700 health care workers at Keesler.

"It is a highly functioning organization already. So my job is to come in and make sure we sustain that excellence and then through those partnerships expand where we can," said Harrell.

The colonel has received numerous awards including the Secretary of the Air Force Leadership Award and Air WarCollege Research Excellence Award. He is also the federal coordinator for the Gulf Coast National Disaster Medical Systems.

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