When you think of the American Red Cross, what likely comes to mind is boots on the ground when hurricanes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters hit; international humanitarian relief efforts; blood drives; and CPR training courses. But a core part of its mission also is to support U.S. military personnel and their families. As such, the organization founded by Clara Barton more than 125 years ago has been a state-of-the-art partner in developing continuing medical education activities aimed at improving care for today’s military, National Guard, and Reserves as they return from active duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.

That’s what Bonnie Bixler, MEd, assistant director, continuing education, Penn State College of Medicine, in Hershey, Pa., discovered when she picked up the phone last year and found the American Red Cross’ Armed Forces Pennsylvania State Manager Margaret Pepe, PhD, JD, on the line with a unique proposition. Pepe wanted to develop an educational activity that would improve the screening and referral skills of the state’s primary care and mental health professionals so that they could better meet the needs of returning military service members who might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury.

The two soon discovered it would take expanding the partnership to include a managed care company and Department of Defense health affiliates to pull off the activity they had envisioned. Here’s how they did it.