Meet a USMEPCOM Medical Transformation Manager

Suzanne Kirchhoff 
Photo: Amy Gregorski, USMEPCOM Public Affairs

By Danielle Lieber, USMEPCOM Public Affairs

NORTH CHICAGO, Ill.—Suzanne Kirchhoff is the medical program business manager for the United States Military Entrance Processing Command’s Medical Plans and Policy Directorate. She’s currently managing the command’s medical transformation efforts to take full advantage of the Department of Defense’s new Military Health System GENESIS electronic health record and the Joint Legacy Viewer.

When fully deployed, MHS GENESIS, which features enhanced, secure technology to manage health information, will be the single health record for service members, veterans, and their families. When USMEPCOM is integrated into MHS GENESIS, Military Entrance Processing Stations located throughout the nation will initiate the electronic health record for each new member of the All-Volunteer Force, a record that will follow them from enlistment, through their careers, and finally into Veterans Affairs after their service is complete. .

The JLV is a web-based, read-only viewer of health history information from the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs and private sector partners. Before creating a MHS GENESIS records, some applicant electronic medical records will be available for viewing via the JLV. A JLV pilot is scheduled to be hosted at eight MEPS in February for applicants, who by virtue of having served previously, already have an electronic record.

“Today in the MEPS, we administer medical screening examinations on all applicants for enlistment, recording their information on paper,” Kirchhoff said. “And at the end of the day, MEPS personnel transfer the written data into a computer. The goal is to input the information into the computer directly and avoid paper altogether.”

Kirchhoff has been involved with every step of the MHS GENESIS and JLV initiatives, and it is thanks to her guidance and diligence that MHS GENESIS is now under contract with the Defense Health Agency and MHS GENESIS builder Leidos Partnership for Defense Health. This means USMEPCOM’s unique requirements are being addressed by the creators and managers of MHS GENESIS. It’s a long road before the project reaches completion, but the changes will transform USMEPCOM’s applicant medical screening process.

Kirchhoff briefs then-Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter about USMEPCOM’s relationship to MHS GENESIS at the Chicago Military Entrance Processing Station, July 28, 2016.

Photo: Darrin McDufford, USMEPCOM Public Affairs

Kirchhoff’s previous experience makes her ideally suited to manage these projects.

“My acquisition training gave me a varied background,” she said. “I know how to do cost estimating, I know how to do project management. I know a little about testing and evaluation. I know about budget stuff. You have to know all those things when you’re implementing a big program like this. One thing I’ve noticed I bring to USMEPCOM is perspective. I’ve had a lot of different jobs, I’ve done a lot of different things. And that helps because I have so much to look back on and gather. When you do a lot of things and you’ve been in a lot of environments, you can see there’s different ways of doing the same thing. And that’s probably my biggest advantage: I have a lot of perspective.”

Kirchhoff’s previous experience ranges from supporting satellite initiatives with NASA and the University of Maryland to working with the Army’s chief scientist. Her favorite part of working for the government is the clear guidance and structure.

“I like the way things are laid out,” she said. “There’s a way of getting things done, and there’s documentation for it. When I realized the government had policies and everything was documented and all you had to do was find the documentation and follow it, I thought that was great.”

She also appreciates the challenges projects like MHS GENESIS and JLV present.

“It’s fun to know there is a process, but it’s great to know you’re laying new ground and doing something different, too. It takes longer and it’s harder, but it’s more of a challenge and you have to use more of your own insights to do that. So I do enjoy that,” Kirchhoff said.

“Right now I am working on how to best transition the USMEPCOM workforce into using these new tools with as little impact as possible,” she said.

“I embrace change. I love it, but a lot of people don’t,” Kirchhoff said. “Some people find it difficult to abandon long-standing ways of doing things, especially if they’ve been doing the same thing, the same way, for a considerable period of time. I’m working to make learning new ways of doing business as easy as possible.”