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August 28, 2019

Congressman sees ‘cool’ tech on local tour

As Logan Robertson used touch screens and video displays to virtually “dissect” a human body, U.S. Rep. David Trone reached for his cellphone.

“That is just way too cool,” Trone said as he took photos.

The congressman had a similar reaction after a guest flight at Hagerstown Regional Airport. While in the air, he got a look at technology produced by Sierra Nevada Corp. for national security purposes.

“This is a technology explosion, the ability to sit at 5,000 feet, 30,000 feet, see what’s going on on the ground, and be there with audio and visual to assist our teams to come out of tough situations in one piece and accomplish their missions,” he said.

Trone, a Democrat who represents Maryland’s 6th Congressional District, went through facilities in Washington and Frederick counties Wednesday on what his staff billed as a “Science and Technology Jobs Tour.”

The tour began at Frostburg State University’s new physician-assistant program, hosted by the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown. The facility is on the third floor of a medical clinic on Walnut Street.

He met with Frostburg State University President Ronald H. Nowaczyk, program Director Beth Smolko, and other officials. He also toured the facility and heard from students like Robertson, who is from Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Smolko and others brought some specific issues to the table. The congressman said one hit close to home.

Physician assistants can do many things, Smolko said, and that includes extending medical care to people in rural, underserved areas. But they are “handcuffed” in some areas of practice. For example, Smolko said, they can’t prescribe special shoes that can help prevent diabetics from developing serious foot problems.

Trone grew up on a farm in rural Adams County, Pa.

“My mother was a diabetic,” he told the students. “She actually had two operations that took off parts of her foot because of diabetes.”

As the Washington County leg of the tour ended, Trone said he found some common themes in the Walnut Street facility and in Sierra Nevada’s complex at the airport.

Sierra Nevada is “investing with super-smart guys to build technology and science.” That upfront investment pays off in protecting the nation, he said.

At the Walnut Street facility, he said, “it’s education up front, which then will help rural medicine (and) telemedicine.”

While meeting with Frostburg students, he praised them and the physician-assistant-program leaders for adopting long-range strategies to help the community and foster their own careers.

He contrasted that approach what he called the partisan strategy in Washington, which focuses on news of the day.

“That is a damn stupid strategy,” he said.