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San Antonio health system among best in wounded warrior, trauma care

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A critical support team from the contingency aeromedical staging facility transports a wounded patient to the San Antonio Military Health Center. The San Antonio Military Health System is one of the top wounded warrior care and trauma centers within the department of defense. (Air Force photo by Desiree N. Palacios)

Air Force Lt. Col. Chad Hivnor explains to Army Ret. SSgt Tim Bennett the benefits of a new fractional laser to treat battle scars on troops injured in operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom during an appointment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Lt. Col. Chad Hivnor explains to retired Army Staff Sgt. Tim Bennett the benefits of a new fractional laser to treat battle scars on troops injured during an appointment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Lt. Col. Chad Hivnor uses a new fractional laser to treat battle scars on Gabriel Alvarado during a medical appointment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. This technology gives wounded warriors the opportunity to gain range of motion.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Lt. Col. Chad Hivnor uses a new fractional laser to treat battle scars on Gabriel Alvarado during a medical appointment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. This technology gives wounded warriors the opportunity to gain range of motion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Lt. Col. Chad Hivnor explains the effects of the new fractional laser to treat battle scars to Gabriel Alvarado during a medical appointment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. This technology gives wounded warriors the opportunity to gain a better range of motion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Lt. Col. Chad Hivnor explains the effects of the new fractional laser to treat battle scars to Gabriel Alvarado during a medical appointment at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. This technology gives wounded warriors the opportunity to gain a better range of motion. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn explains the San Antonio Military Health System as being a benchmark DOD success story during an interview at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn, director of the San Antonio Military Health System talks about their success stories during an interview at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Army Col. Mary Garr explains the process of achieving the San Antonio Military Health System as being a benchmark DOD success story during an interview at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Army Col. Mary Garr, chief operating officer for the San Antonio Military Health System talks about the tremendous changes in health care during an interview at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 9, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Service members of the 59th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility and Air Force personnel assist wounded warriors off a C-17 Globemaster III that arrived on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland flightline on July 10, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Service members of the 59th Contingency Aeromedical Staging Facility and Air Force personnel assist wounded warriors off a C-17 Globemaster III that arrived on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland flightline on July 10, 2012. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Ret. Master Sgt. Nancy Hansen and Capt. Sarra Cushen paint prosthetic ears for wounded warriors at San Antonio Military Medical Center on July 11, 2012. Hansen is one of two anaplastology's in the DOD and Cushen is beginning her maxillofacial prosthetic fellowship which is a year long program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Retired Master Sgt. Nancy Hansen and Capt. Sarra Cushen paint prosthetic ears for wounded warriors at San Antonio Military Medical Center on July 11, 2012. Hansen is one of two anaplastology's in the DOD and Cushen is beginning her maxillofacial prosthetic fellowwithship which is a year long program. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Col. Alan Sutton holds a model created by his department at San Antonio Military Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 11, 2012. Anaplastology is the art and science of restoring  a malformed or absent part of the human body through artificial mean. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Col. Alan Sutton holds a model created by his department at San Antonio Military Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, July 11, 2012. Anaplastology is the art and science of restoring a malformed or absent part of the human body through artificial means. (U.S. Air Force photo/Desiree N. Palacios)

Joint Base San Antonio--Lackland (AFNS) -- During the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission hearings, it was suggested that the military should consolidate all health facilities in San Antonio to create the San Antonio Military Health System.

The SAMHS was established after both the Air Force and Army chiefs of staff signed a memorandum of agreement in September 2010.

Maj. Gen. Byron C. Hepburn, SAMHS director, and Army Col. Mary Garr, chief operating officer, explained that the goal of the system is to increase efficiencies and effectiveness, while providing a cutting edge, and state-of-the art medical activity within the San Antonio Military Health System.

"Being mindful of our readiness requirements, our education requirements and also our research requirements for the nation, we are doing all of that in a very synergistic coordinated manner here in San Antonio," said Hepburn, the first director of SAMHS and the 59th Medical Wing commander.

The 59th Medical Wing, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, is the largest medical wing in the Air Force. The Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center is a new facility currently under construction and when finished will be the largest ambulatory surgical center within the Department of Defense. The current building will be demolished after the new WHASC is fully operational.

"One of the key things that we are doing here is research for enroute care for air evacuation for part of our Air Force and joint mission in the medical arena," said Hepburn.

"We take great pride in what we are doing with our critical transport teams, where we're taking it to the next level." He said the center has installed partial heart lung bypass machines that can keep wounded warriors with lung injuries alive, with the ability to move them intercontinental distances. "We are also looking at how we are going to move an infectious patient safely across intercontinental distances, so we'll see a lot of really cutting edge, state of the art medical activity happening in San Antonio."

According to Hepburn, SAMHS has the distinction of being the only military level one trauma center in the U.S. "We are caring for very high acuity patients, so our doctors, nurses and technicians are learning how to care for these trauma patients. Those skills will serve them well if they have to go forward in combat or serve the nation for a natural disaster here in the United States."

Hepburn also explained that SAMHS has a unique partnership with the Veteran's Administration.

"Secretary Shinseki, from the Veteran Affairs, has asked us to be a pilot site for an integrated electronic health record system," said Hepburn. "It'll really lend to an increased synergy of seamless transfer of care between our active duty force and those that go on to get their care in the veterans administration system."

In addition to developing a reputation as a state-of-the-art health center and top level trauma hospital, SAMHS offers many facilities for wounded warriors injured in combat. The maxillofacial prosthetic department, laser treatment for wounded warriors, the Center for the Intrepid, and the aeromedical staging facility are just a few areas dedicated to providing top-notch care.

"We saw tremendous change in the training, education and research areas in health care here in San Antonio," said Garr. "All of the enlisted medical training across the Department of Defense has now consolidated through BRAC here in San Antonio.

"In addition to the research area, we opened the battlefield health and trauma center on Fort Sam (Houston), which consolidated some of our important research and development. The tri-service research lab, which was headquartered on Brooke City Base, stayed here in San Antonio as well and is able to continue to provide much needed research in areas that support healthcare."

Hepburn added that this transformation in San Antonio has been a win-win, for not only the Air Force and the Army, but most importantly is a win-win for its patients.

"We have an A+ system and it's only going to get stronger and better in the years ahead," said Hepburn. "Through collaboration and teamwork we have a clear focus on our patients and patients' safety and high quality outcomes. We are shifting from healthcare to health here in San Antonio in a very positive and proactive manner."

Hepburn believes that it is an honor to serve in one of the military's premier health institutions and is excited about the future of military health care in San Antonio. "The new San Antonio Military Medical Center and the new Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, which will be finished in 2015, are beautiful facilities but more importantly it's the men and women, officers, enlisted and civilians who really give it the A+ rating that it so well deserves."









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