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Top doc checks up on Keesler Medical Center

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Travis Beihl
  • 81 Training Wing Public Affairs
Lt. Gen. Mark Ediger, Surgeon General of the Air Force, toured the Keesler Medical Center, Oct. 17, exploring their mission and meeting the personnel who accomplish it.

During his tour, he visited more than 10 different units in the 81st Medical Group to include mammography, emergency department, radiology & oncology, genetics and the clinical research lab. Since Keesler Medical Center sustained damage in 2005 from Hurricane Katrina, they have taken huge steps in patient care and their capabilities.

“In the Air Force Medical Service we refer to large hospitals as readiness platforms and places for providing great care. The 81st Medical Group is clearly both,” said Ediger. “We have seen remarkable progress in the rebuilding of this medical center after the damages it sustained in Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and every time I’ve come back, I’m impressed with the progress that’s been made in terms of adding new capabilities and new parts to the facilities.”

“The team of specialists here are clearly focused and working together as a team to provide quality trusted care and a great patient experience in the process,” said Ediger. “In doing so, they are keeping themselves ready as a deployable team to give us the ability to support combat operations, respond to disaster or provide humanitarian assistance.”

Combat operations support is the primary mission of our medical group and in order to keep the Airmen trained on the most advanced medical capabilities and be able to bring them into the operational environment, Air Force Medicine is looking to partner with local hospitals.

“As we continue to find innovative ways to take more capabilities forward to save lives, we are going to need to adapt our models of readiness at home station in Air Force Medicine to keep those abilities current,” said Ediger. “That will require some growth in our partnerships in other hospital’s trauma centers. Today we have partnerships all over the country with trauma centers where we send our medical Airmen periodically to get experience managing the trauma we rarely see on an Air Force base.”

The general explained how those partnerships have evolved over his time in the Air Force.

“The use of those partnerships and their importance will grow into the future. Traditionally, we used to work exclusively at the medical center where we were assigned. Today we are seeing that many of our deployable specialists actually balance their time between the clinic and a partnership institution.”

Keesler already has partnerships with four hospitals in the local area. Keesler Medical Center has a devotion to patient care and has numerous awards to prove it. They were named Air Education and Training Command’s Hospital of the Year for the last four years, they were awarded the Breast Imaging Center of Excellence and are the only Defense Department medical treatment facility ranked in the top 10 percent nationally for patient satisfaction.

“I’m particularly impressed with the culture here,” said Ediger “It’s a patient-centered culture focused on what we call trusted care, which is a team commitment to providing safe, high quality care and a great patient experience and that was evident in everything I saw.” Ediger also toured the Clinical Research Laboratory which houses Keesler’s robotic surgery training program. Robotic surgery is growing in popularity across the U.S. and as surgeons have gained experience with it, they can perform surgical procedures safely in a less invasive way that speeds recovery, reduces blood loss and surgical site infections.

“It’s important that our surgeons have the opportunity to become proficient in robotic surgery and that requires a good training platform,” said Ediger. “Keesler has really stepped up and set up a very effective training platform that is being used by Army, Navy and Air Force surgeons and surgical technicians. I believe as new techniques evolve and new generations of surgical robots are produced, this training platform will give us what we need to keep our surgeons and techs current in the latest and best techniques.”

Ediger was so impressed with how Keesler Medical Center has improved and the various units’ dedication to their craft that he awarded five coins to various Airmen along his tour and at the end of the day expressed his appreciation for the Keesler Medical Center.

“We have 76 medical treatment facilities in the Air Force and I love all of them. Clearly, Keesler is a great one,” said Ediger. “They are innovative here, and accomplish a lot of essential training of medical professionals who go all over our Air Force. Keesler is very important to our capability; it’s truly a great place.”