Wilford Hall Medical Center: 50 years of medical excellence

  • Published
  • By Linda Frost
  • 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs
Hospital officials and guests commemorated Wilford Hall Medical Center for 50 years as the Air Force's medical flagship in a ceremony here Nov. 16 that marked medical excellence from 1957-2007.

Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Thomas W. Travis, commander of the 59th Medical Wing, led the ceremony to celebrate the beginning of what is now the largest U.S. Air Force medical facility in the world.

The 50th anniversary celebration commemorated the dedication of a building that allowed the Air Force to develop a world-class medical treatment and training facility.

What began as a small station hospital and later downgraded to an infirmary, eventually led to a nine-story, 150-bed hospital on Nov. 16, 1957.

"This great building, this organization, the 59th Medical Wing, is dear to this city, and indeed to this nation, not because of the building, but because of the world-class professionals who work here every day," said General Travis in his opening remarks.

"Airmen and Soldiers work here. And they do magnificent things for this nation's greatest assets -- its warriors, its patriots and their families. They do that here in San Antonio and they do it in places like Balad, Iraq, and Bagram, Afghanistan, and sometimes in places like New Orleans or Houston if needed," General Travis said.

In an outdoor ceremony in front of the hospital's flagpole entrance, Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Paul W. Myers, keynote speaker and former surgeon general of the Air Force, reminisced about the history of Wilford Hall.

"What has been accomplished in the last 50 years is remarkable, but change is inevitable," General Myers said, also a former commander of WHMC.

General Myers told the story of Wilford Hall's early days when the medical center was a 100-bed station hospital established in 1942 to support the San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center. As the patient population, grew so did the size of the hospital, said General Myers.

By the end of World War II, the station hospital had 1,200 beds, and staff members were conducting research in several areas of interest.

Due to the lack of doctors, by June 1950 the facility had been downgraded to an infirmary. When the U.S. entered the Korean conflict, Lackland was overrun by recruits. The infirmary expanded to a center for medical evacuees and became more of a hospital than an infirmary. This led to a large permanent hospital to be built on Lackland.

Today Wilford Hall is a 1.4 million-square feet facility and has 12 miles of hallways with 180 staffed beds, 19 operating rooms and 152 dental treatment rooms. There are more than 2,600 patient visits per day and over 40 patients admitted per day. More than 9,400 prescriptions are dispensed every day.

"What will never change is the convoluted mission, that of providing quality healthcare to our air persons and all other eligible beneficiaries in both peace and in war," General Myers said.

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