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Construction Begins on $92 Million Trauma Research Facility

By Elaine Wilson
Special to American Forces Press Service

FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas, Jan. 15, 2008 – Construction of a $92 million center for all Defense Department combat casualty care and trauma research missions began with a groundbreaking ceremony here Jan. 11.

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Dr. Basil Pruitt (center) laughs at a comment made by guest speaker, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, commander of U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command, at the Jan. 11, 2008, groundbreaking ceremony for the Joint Center of Excellence for Battlefield Health and Trauma Research, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Photo by Elaine Wilson
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The 150,000-square-foot Joint Center of Excellence for Battlefield Health and Trauma Research marks the first construction project at Fort Sam Houston directed by 2005 base realignment and closure legislation.

“This is not just one new building we’re building here; this represents a major commitment and acknowledgement of the importance and the impact that trauma research has on all patients,” said Maj. Gen. George Weightman, commander of U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command.

Military leaders from the Army, Navy and Air Force joined community leaders at the ceremony. The new facility, slated for completion in September 2009, signifies a “new era in military medical research,” Weightman said.

The research center will enable research and development experts, scattered throughout the nation, to centralize efforts, which will improve efficiency, reduce duplication and enhance the collusion between them, the general said.

By doing so, DoD will ensure “we continue to provide the best research in an environment that will enable (medical experts) to extend the boundaries of research,” Weightman said.

The center will be collocated with the Institute of Surgical Research, which falls under Weightman’s command, and next to Brooke Army Medical Center. The ISR also will benefit from BRAC with a 5,000-square-foot renovation.

In addition, the research center adds 230 people to the 440 already working at the institute, which totals “670 people dedicated to improving the quality of life of our wounded warriors,” the general said.

“Locating this facility here (with the Institute of Surgical Research) at Fort Sam Houston is the absolute logical choice,” he said.

Weightman attributed the high survivability rate of today’s war in part to the institute, which steadily has produced life-saving products and technologies.

Innovations include new field dressings and tourniquets, hemoglobin-based oxygen carriers with a two- or three-year shelf life rather than 30 days, new methods for wound closure after a burn injury, and five interrelated computerized devices that allow medics to provide quality care to wounded servicemembers at the point of injury.

The focus of the Institute of Surgical Research and the future focus of the new joint center will be on the delivery of immediate care for warriors who suffer life-threatening injuries on the battlefield.

“This is not just pie-in-the-sky research. … (The institute) has been saving lives and improving function every day since it has been open,” Weightman said. “It’s just incredible, the comprehensiveness and far-reaching aspects.”

The combined research efforts of the Institute of Surgical Research and the Joint Center of Excellence for Battlefield Health and Trauma Research will benefit not only military members, but civilians as well.

“While the causes of trauma are different, the responses are similar,” Weightman said. “And the interventions to save lives are remarkably similar. The fruits of this labor will help every civilian in this nation.”

The funding for the project is well-spent, Weightman said.

“I can’t think of a better investment of taxpayers’ dollars,” he said.

(Elaine Wilson works at the Fort Sam Houston Public Information Office.)

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Related Sites:
Fort Sam Houston
Brooke Army Medical Center

Click photo for screen-resolution imageArmy Cpl. Christopher Velazquez, a wounded warrior recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, is interviewed Jan. 11, 2008, after the groundbreaking ceremony for the Joint Center of Excellence for Battlefield Health and Trauma Research. Photo by Elaine Wilson  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageMilitary and community leaders break ground for the Joint Center of Excellence for Battlefield Health and Trauma Research, at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, Jan. 11, 2008. The new research center will be collocated with the Institute of Surgical Research and just steps away from Brooke Army Medical Center. Photo by Esther Garcia  
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