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Yesterday, Dr. David B. Hoyt, executive director of The American College of Surgeons (ACS), awarded Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) with a certificate verifying the Nation’s Medical Center as a Level II Trauma Center.

“This designation represents an enduring commitment to extraordinarily high standards [of patient care],” said Dr. Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs and director, TRICARE Management Activity.

Hoyt and Woodson were among the speakers at yesterday’s program.

The Level II Trauma Center verification demonstrates WRNMMC’s commitment to the standards of care, living every day, measuring performance on a daily basis, and creating public assurance through external review, Hoyt said.

“I can’t think of a hospital that’s more important to recognize for its commitment to trauma care on behalf of those who have served,” stated Hoyt, also a trauma surgeon for more than 35 years. “This is a model for healthcare going forward,” he added.

The American College of Surgeons is a scientific and educational association founded in 1913 to improve the quality of care for patients by setting high standards for surgical education and practice.

“Very few hospitals in the United States have received [Level II Trauma Center] distinction,” said WRNMMC Director Army Brig. Gen. (Dr.) Jeffrey B. Clark. “This is truly a team effort,” he continued, thanking the patients “we are honored to serve, and their families.”

“This verification as a Level II Trauma Center is yet another testimony to the superb care we at Walter Reed Bethesda provide every day, to those we are privileged to serve – our service members, their families, our retirees and their families,” Clark said. “Walter Reed National Military Medical Center is where our nation heals its heroes. What we do, indeed matters.”

Navy Capt. (Dr.) Philip Perdue, director of surgery at WRNMMC, agrees.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment for the command, and validation of the great trauma care that [Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC), National Naval Medical Center (NNMC)] and WRNMMC has provided over the last 12 years of conflict,” Perdue said.

According to the Committee on Trauma (COT), only 155 other medical centers in the nation have achieved level II verification. WRNMMC is currently the only trauma center in the state of Maryland with the voluntary verification, which will likely go up for review again in 2016.

“Successful completion of the verification process puts an official stamp on our program. It validates the efforts every hospital staff member has made over the last 10 years. I could not be more proud to be part of the Trauma Team [at WRNMMC],” said Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Carlos J. Rodriguez, division chief of Trauma Surgery/Surgical Critical Care at Walter Reed Bethesda.

Two ACS reviewers conducted a two-day, on-site survey in September, evaluating all phases and areas of care for injured patients at WRNMMC, including the Operation Room, radiology department, orthopedic and general surgery, explained Peter Schutz, a trauma nurse coordinator and a member of the core team that sought the ACS verification.

As part of the review process, reviewers observed the medical center’s emergency department, blood bank and intensive care unit. Emphasis was placed on evaluating medical records of trauma patients and correlating patient care with the performance improvement program, according to ACS.

“The American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma has established themselves as world leaders in trauma system development. They have quite literally written ‘the book’ on how trauma systems should be run,” Rodriguez explained.

Through its C0T, the ACS works to improve the care of injured and critically ill patients — before, enroute and during hospitalization. The committee conducts training courses in emergency care for ambulance personnel; sponsors courses for the management and prevention of injuries for trauma specialists as well as for physicians who do not treat trauma victims on a regular basis; and works to encourage hospitals to upgrade their trauma care capabilities. The ACS also maintains a voluntary verification/consultation program for trauma centers.

Rodriguez explained why it was important to pursue ACS trauma center verification.

“Multiple studies have shown mature trauma systems produce the best outcomes for patients in their charge. In these systems, morbidity rates are lower and survival rates are higher.”

According to Cheryl Brown, trauma program manager at WRNMMC, trauma nurse performance improvement coordinators, like registered nurses Carolyn Craig, Yvonne Griner and Sherigo Page, played a key role in the development of the trauma program verification by incorporating many of the processes utilized by Landsthul Regional Medical Center in Germany. Schutz and Rodriguez said many others were also involved in the process, such as physical therapists, occupational therapists, social workers and the TBI team, who worked as integral members of the group with physicians and nurses to provide trauma care.

“Since 2003, NNMC, WRAMC and now WRNMMC have been caring for warriors wounded in [conflict]. We have established processes and protocols in line with the guidelines set forth by the [Committee on Trauma]. As stated by the ACS, optimal care of trauma patients is a direct result of hospital-wide, systematic, coordinated approach. We believe our model of multi-disciplinary approach to patient care is second to none — one that meets the strict standards to be called ‘trauma center’ by the [American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma],” Rodriguez said.

What does this mean to you, the military member? It means that anywhere you enter in the Tricare Health System as a trauma patient, you can rest assured in knowing you can come to Walter Reed Bethesda for continued acute care as our system meets stringent national standards, Rodriguez explained.