Search This Blog

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Farewell To The Old Walter Reed

It was an unlikely place for me to be since I normally found any excuse to miss a military ball, but there I was – it was May of 2009, and I was surrounded by a crowd of revelers to celebrate 100 years of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center (formerly known as Walter Reed General Hospital). This was the last hurrah before the medical center was moved to Bethesda, MD.  It was strictly a black tie affair, so the military attendees were bedecked in their Dress Mess uniforms making dancing a ridiculous proposition, but dance they did.  There was a great deal to celebrate that night because the history of Walter Reed is rich, but to think of it in the past tense made me more sad than celebratory.
 Its beginnings were quite humble with the forerunner of the hospital being a health clinic at Fort McNair.  But in 1909, the new Walter Reed General Hospital was born.  Unfortunately, its namesake, Major Walter Reed, had already died some seven years earlier of a ruptured appendix at the young age of 51.  He had already accomplished more to advance medical science in his middle years than most of us can dream of in two lifetimes of medical practice.  The honor of his name was bestowed on the hospital because of his landmark work in combating deadly yellow fever and the many lives that were saved.

Over the course of a century, the hospital grew from 80 beds to the enormous medical center that it is today.  Building 1”, as the original hospital was known, admitted the first patient in May of 1909.  Hundreds of thousands of military personnel and their families have subsequently received treatment.  But Walter Reed is most recently renowned for the treatment of wounded warriors from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  In 2007, a series of reports in the Washington Post sparked a scandal that was highly publicized and politicized but ultimately led to positive changes in the way soldiers in transition from war are treated.
As part of the culture of change that was needed to bring back the bruised reputation of WRAMC, Disney Corporation, world-renowned for their customer service focus, was brought into the organization to help set things back on track.  A one-stop-shop Warrior Clinic was founded that made access to care much more convenient and efficient.  A concierge service for families of wounded warriors was adopted, and greeters were strategically placed at all the hospital entrances to begin the day with a smile and an offer of assistance.
While Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck were quite helpful, ultimately, it was time to move on from the old Walter Reed.  As of September 15, 2011, Walter Reed Army Medical Center has relocated and renamed as planned under the Base Realignment and Closure Act (BRAC).  Combining with the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, the new facilities constitute the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) where the care of soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen goes on.  I will miss the old campus with its historic beauty and significance in the advancement of medical science.  I will miss those amazing hallways of Building 1 with the portraits of commanders past (and perhaps a few ghosts).  I will miss the basement tunnel and Building 1's rickety elevators…ok, maybe not the elevators!  Farewell WRAMC.

No comments:

Post a Comment