By Staff SGT William Blankenship.
JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-LACKLAND, Texas —
The 59th Medical Wing’s departments of ophthalmology, optometry, and the Joint Warfighter Refractive Surgery Center are now aligned under one umbrella for the first time, the Wilford Hall Eye Center.
The center is located within the Department of Defense’s largest outpatient clinic and surgical facility, Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, and also includes the San Antonio Uniformed Services Health Education Consortium Ophthalmology residency program.
“Reorganizing as Wilford Hall Eye Center allows us to better provide the full spectrum of eye care to our patients,” said Lt Col Matthew Caldwell, chairman of the new eye center at the 59th Medical Wing. “Who we are in totality is better represented now that we are co-located in the new facility. Joining the three major departments under one name is the right thing to do.”
Since moving into the new Wilford Hall in June of 2017, the Air Force’s flagship eye clinic has a new 15,700 square foot clinic, 62 exam rooms and state of the art technology. The largest eye center in the DoD sees approximately 32,000 patients annually, performing nearly 4,000 surgeries.
Beneficiaries are able to receive a full spectrum of subspecialty eye care: cornea and refractive, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, ocular pathology, pediatric and strabismus, oculoplastics, retina, vision rehabilitation, and medical contact lenses.
In conjunction with their multi-faceted eye care on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland at Wilford Hall, WHEC provides critical manning for trauma, burn, wounded warrior, and inpatient services centered at San Antonio Military Medical Center.
Eye specialists from Wilford Hall are the source of just over 50% of all ophthalmology deployments to Afghanistan. A majority of WHEC ophthalmologists have deployed to combat zones, bringing experience in management of eye trauma back to home-station patient care. The center is credited with the most combat ophthalmology experience in the DoD.
“Separating out trauma, burns, and in-patient care at SAMMC allows the Wilford Hall Eye Center to specialize and fine tune outpatient eye care, while still being able to support those missions across town,” Caldwell said. “Specialization is the key to achieving the best medical outcomes, and the trend has been toward focusing on specific diseases, procedures, and surgeries…doing a lot of them, and doing them well. As the outpatient arm of the San Antonio Military Health System, we are able to focus on optimizing care for outpatient conditions like cataracts, glaucoma, diabetes, and macular degeneration.”
“Having the three specialized branches of eye care co-located within our new center allows for better communication between the different physicians a patient may see,” said Capt. Jason Croskrey, an ophthalmologist at the 59th Medical Wing. “It is very common for me to have a question about a patient from one of the other specialties, and now it is easy to just walk down the hall and have those collaborative moments to ensure we are providing the best care possible to our patients. Having that single point of care is a positive step for us.”
WHEC doctors bring a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience having trained at top eye centers in the world including Harvard’s Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, the Duke Eye Center, the Kellogg Eye Center, the University of Colorado, and the University of Minnesota. “I really believe our high quality team plays a major factor in making the Wilford Hall Eye Center such a special place,” Caldwell said. “We have some of the newest and best technology, a state-of-the-art facility, a fantastic education program, but without our excellent ophthalmologists, optometrists, technicians, and administrative personnel, we wouldn’t be able to stand out like we do today.”
For more information on the 59th Medical Wing, to include Wilford Hall Eye Center, visit www.59mdw.af.mil.