Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Print this Article

A physician's assistant (PA), the Orthotics and Prosthetics Service, and Physical Therapy Amputee Section at Walter Reed Bethesda were recently recognized for the care and support they provide wounded warriors, patients and their families.

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) recognized Merri-Beth Cully, lead PA for the Orthopedic Surgery Service, as well as both the prosthetics service and physical therapy amputee teams with 2012 Community Heroes Individual and Group Awards Oct. 30 at MOAA's annual meeting in Arlington, Va."

"This is our annual celebration of those who are true community heroes because they are taking care of our wounded and injured," said retired Adm. Steve Abbot, chair of MOAA's board of directors.

Last year, MOAA began honoring those who aid in public-private outreach efforts in order to support wounded warriors, active duty, veterans and their families.

The awards are intended to recognize and highlight individuals and groups within the military and civilian communities, who exemplify service to the wounded military and veteran populations, explained Clayton Hinchman, deputy director for contract services and marketing for MOAA.

"The Community Heroes Award is in alignment with President Obama's and first lady Michelle Obama's efforts to organize public-private outreach and support," Hinchman said.

Although she received an individual award, Cully said "team" is always on her mind and essential to providing care to wounded warriors returning from theater. She works with the trauma team providers, and is among the first to work with wounded warriors when they arrive at the Nation's Medical Center.

As lead PA for orthopedic service, Cully directs, coaches and supports five PAs while ensuring all clinics that have a PA assigned to them, and is credited with directly assisting more than 1,700 Operation Enduring Freedom cases, scheduling and verifying more than 2,000 cases and 6,900 operative procedures.

"It's good seeing my patients on Main Street having lunch," Cully said. "They don't know that I worked with them, and sometimes, I like to tell them how good it is to see them up."

Army Capt. Bradley Ritland, a physical therapist in Walter Reed's Physical Therapy Amputee Section, said his team "works passionately to ensure the real heroes suffering limb loss from combat related events are getting the world's greatest care. We take our role in their recovery very seriously, and understand we are one piece of the entire medical team."

The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center's (WRNMMC) Physical Therapy Amputee Section is the Department of Defense's largest amputee-care rehabilitation facility, providing more than 18,000 patient care visits a year. Since Operations Iraqi Freedom, Enduring Freedom and New Dawn, it has treated more than 1,000 service members.

Dave Laufer leads the WRNMMC Orthotics and Prosthetics Department, which has managed the prosthetic care of nearly 1,000 veterans. The facility provides functional outcomes to all amputees. An example of its hard work and diligence is the facility routinely provides new sockets for amputees to attach their prosthetics in 48 hours, while the standard in the civilian community is two weeks, Laufer stated. He added the facility has also developed devices to enable wounded veterans to continue on active duty, as well as skydive, run, swim, mountain climb and more.

Saluting Cully, prosthetics service as well the physical therapy amputee team for earning the MOAA awards, Walter Reed Bethesda Commander Rear Adm. Alton L. Stocks stated, "This reflects the outstanding service you give every day to our wounded warriors, and all our patients here at the Nation's Medical Center. What you do matters."