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The Breast Care and Research Center at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) recently earned a three-year full accreditation from the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC). It is the first Department of Defense (DoD) breast center to earn the distinction.

“The NAPBC recognizes and applauds your center’s commitment to providing the highest quality evaluation and management of your patients with breast disease,” stated Dr. Scott H. Kurtzman, chair of NAPBC Standards and Accreditation Committee, and Dr. Cary S. Kaufman, chair of the NAPBC board of directors, in a letter dated Sept. 11, 2012 to the Breast Care and Research Center staff at WRNMMC.

“Your recently completed survey was structured to assess compliance with all standards established by the NAPBC and to assure that your patients were afforded access to the full range of critical services for their disease,” the letter continued. “Congratulations on your centers’ dedication to the care of your patients.”

Army Col. (Dr.) Craig Shriver, chief of General Surgery Service and interim director of the U.S. Military Cancer Institute at WRNMMC, pointed out that all 27 criteria of the NAPBC survey were met during the Breast Care and Research Center’s accreditation process.

“This was the culmination of a lot of work by a lot of people,” Shriver added. “It is a privilege to be working with such a supportive command.”

“This is the first survey for WRNMMC Breast Program and first program within [DoD] to seek accreditation,” said Navy Capt. (Dr.) Ralph Jones, head of the Surgical Oncology Section, General Surgery Service. “It is the culmination of three years of planning to include the transformation of both [the former] Walter Reed Army Medical Center and [former] National Naval Medical Center breast centers into the WRNMMC Breast Care and Breast Imaging Centers. We’ve overcome the barriers that held us to our prior institutional thought to achieve a new patient-centered breast program unrivaled in our community. This is in keeping with our new command vision and goals ‘We create extraordinary experiences for our patients, family and staff’ at the Breast Care Center.”

Dr. Donna-Marie Manasseh, chief of breast surgery, Brooklyn Breast Cancer Program, Maimonides Cancer Center, surveyed the WRNMMC breast care center and commented, “This is a model breast center and exemplary program. All the components run efficiently and coordinate well to make an outstanding center. I was impressed with the attention to detail and patient-center approaches at every level.”

She particularly noted, “The multi-disciplinary clinic for every cancer patient allow for a true team approach to the patient evaluation process; the facilities were comforting and inviting; the MRI was not in the basement, but in a room with a window, allowing a more comfortable patient experience; and a procedure room provided a nice alternative to the [operating room], minimizing patient anxiety.”

She added, “The surgery division is very knowledgeable and efficient; constantly evaluating the latest research and implementing best practices to ensure patients are receiving the best. The pathology division is very thorough and does its best to provide the best services to surgeons as well as the rest of the tumor board team. The medical and radiation oncology divisions, as well as the geneticist, nurse navigators and nursing teams all provide a great system of knowledge and support to ensure patients are monitored closely and carefully to optimize their outcomes.

“At every level, there was a palpable pride and service mentality that made patients truly feel they were being taken care of by the best of the best, and by family. The Breast Care and Research Center at Walter Reed Bethesda is truly a cut above the rest,” Manasseh said.

Jo A. Kruse, cancer registry manager at Walter Reed Bethesda, explain the NAPBC falls under the umbrella of the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer and has the sole function of reviewing quality of care and performance measures that assess cancer programs. “[NAPBC] assures patients will receive the best care possible at centers meeting their standards.”

Kruse described the survey as “a complete review of the continuum of care” provided at WRNMMC’s breast cancer center. “[It entailed] formal and complete review of every aspect of breast care for both malignancies and benign conditions, from assessing risks factors to diagnosis, to treatment to long-time surveillance.”

These areas were noted on the survey report, as well as the breast cancer center’s navigation progress, multidisciplinary cancer conferences and clinical trial accrual.

Manasseh stated Walter Reed Bethesda’s breast cancer center has a detailed navigation system in place for both benign and malignant diagnosed patient, which ensures “great patient outcome and satisfaction.” In addition, she added “there is a detailed surveillance plan that allows patients to be traced at multiple levels. The radiation oncology division is extremely well managed; the medical oncology division is exemplary and very knowledgeable; nurses are very knowledgeable and provide tremendous support to both patients and staff; [and] support and rehab services are superb.”

“Being the first DoD breast center to achieve accreditation, it is clear that we lead military medicine,” Jones concluded.