It’s about more than just pink shirts

by Col. Brent Johnson
86th Medical Group

Courtesy photo Personnel of the 86th Medical Group pose for a photo in pink shirts to raise breast cancer awareness.
Courtesy photo
Personnel of the 86th Medical Group pose for a photo in pink shirts to raise breast cancer awareness.

In the last few weeks you’ve hopefully seen several articles in the news and on the Ramstein website about Breast Cancer Awareness Month. You’ve also hopefully read the article about our very own Senior Airman Jordan Hebner, 86th Dental Squadron and the mastermind behind the sudden flood of pink morale shirts worn by 86th Medical Group personnel.

Her story is an interesting one and she had an idea that not only helps foster conversations about prevention and wellness, but also serves as an example of how great ideas and innovation come from most junior Airmen.

Several members of Hebner’s family were diagnosed with breast cancer, and her passion for the issue created an initiative that spread across our 900-member medical group. The pink shirts, as well as banners, events and other activities, raise awareness of a disease which kills more than 40,000 women in the U.S. each year and is the second leading cause of death among women.


The pink shirts are about more than just breast cancer and give us an opportunity to talk more broadly about disease prevention, wellness and health preservation. I know my medics do a great job taking care of you when you get sick, but we also want to partner with you to keep you healthy.

We do this through many programs and initiatives. Our Medical Management Team works closely with your primary care managers to ensure we are providing you with the tools to stay as healthy as possible. Our teams use clinical practice guidelines for monitoring and treating many diseases, such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. We have initiatives to ensure your children are getting their wellness checks on time and getting appropriate immunizations.

We have partnered with Landstuhl Regional Medical Center for mammograms and well-woman exams. We use metrics that are the accepted civilian standard to measure how we are doing in providing you with the highest quality care. When you get a phone call from our teams recommending a colonoscopy or other preventive test, please take advantage of these opportunities. Healthy choices and early detection are key to your overall health. Why wait until you get sick to think about health?

In addition, we are developing a new program we’ll launch in a couple months that will identify patients that are overweight, not eating right and not exercising the way they should, and give them the tools to change their vector.

Although we talk about breast cancer this time of year, heart disease kills seven times as many women every year as breast cancer. We also know that as patients become even a little overweight and don’t use their bodies the way they should be, their metabolism starts straining with glucose metabolism and blood pressure regulation. Left unchecked, they will become diabetic and hypertensive with future vascular changes in their heart and limbs that will make them subject to ulceration, infection, amputation and eventual cardiac death as their engines work harder to move themselves around without a limb.

Diabetes has quadrupled over the last 30 years to over 422 million adults worldwide, about 8 percent of the global population. Those affected have a 25 percent risk of foot ulceration during an individual’s lifetime, with foot ulcerations and amputations costing U.S. healthcare up to $17 billion annually, more than the direct costs of the five most expensive cancers. This is a very big deal, and people can save themselves from a disease process that after lower extremity amputation has a worse five-year survival rate than most cancers by being careful with their diet, exercise and weight. It never has to happen.

Did we pick the pink shirts for breast cancer awareness? Absolutely. However, we also want to highlight the importance of other wellness and prevention initiatives to your health and talk about our teamwork with you to keep yourself healthy.

Last week I attended the retirement luncheon for Mr. Anthony Duno, who at age 91 retired with 70 years of federal service. His advice for health and a long life? “Don’t eat too much, don’t drink too much and walk every day.” It really is that simple.