WHY DO YOU THINK CHARLESTON HAS BECOME A REGIONAL MEDICAL HUB?
The city’s recent accolades as a world-class travel destination make it easier to attract highly-skilled medical professionals and other essential staff to this area. With this population boom comes the necessity for high-quality, innovative, dependable medical services, and Charleston has really stepped up to meet that need.
IN WHAT AREAS DOES CHARLESTON AND YOUR HOSPITAL IN PARTICULAR EXCEL?
Charleston excels at collaboration between the medical entities in our community. Charleston VAMC excels at providing veterans with timely access to exceptional health care. We serve close to 67,000 patients, and that number increased by 6.1 percent in 2015, making us the nation’s fifth-fastest growing VA medical center. Despite our record growth, however, we continue to maintain good access to care, exceeding the national VA average for access to primary care and mental health. Our five-star ranking on the VA’s Strategic Analytics for Improvement and Learning value ranks us in the top 10 percent of all VA medical centers, and we have the third-best efficiency ranking in the VA system.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR HOSPITAL’S PLACE IN THE LARGER CHARLESTON HEALTH CARE COMMUNITY?
Charleston VA is honored to care for all of our area’s veterans – those who willingly put their lives on the line for our freedom. We serve patients along the coast from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to Hinesville, Georgia.
HOW IS YOUR HOSPITAL MANAGING IN THE NEW NATIONAL HEALTH CARE ENVIRONMENT?
As both a federal agency and the nation’s largest health care system, the VA is intimately involved in the national conversation surrounding health care. We endeavor to serve our veterans in a personal way – ensuring their greatest possible health and overall well-being. Our veteran population’s growth is shaping the future of VA health care. In the future, I see veterans enjoying expanded care options. Already, under the Veterans’ Choice Program, veterans can seek care in non-VA hospitals when a desired appointment is unavailable within 30 days at the VA or when the veteran resides more than 40 miles from a VA facility.
WHAT STUDIES/MEDICAL RESEARCH AT YOUR HOSPITAL ARE YOU MOST EXCITED ABOUT?
The VA has a long history of innovative research. Here in Charleston, more than 100 research investigators perform basic and clinical research in cardiology, endocrinology, diabetes mellitus, hematology, oncology, rheumatology, nephrology, alcohol-related disorders and more. Charleston VAMC’s research budget for fiscal year 2015 neared $21 million.
The most exciting research being conducted here revolves around the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder. The national recognition given to Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center’s PTSD program is largely due to our research in this area, which has helped us to develop effective, evidence-based treatments for veterans. It is inspiring to see our physicians working alongside veterans struggling with PTSD and helping them get back to living normally. Even more rewarding is the realization that, often, studies of this kind aren’t conducted in the private sector.