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Pentagon’s ‘Top Doc’ Praises Advances at Walter Reed

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2007 – The Defense Department’s top doctor yesterday praised improvements at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and reaffirmed the department’s commitment to ensuring its patients get care that’s “the very best in the world.”

Speaking at the ribbon-cutting for the new Military Advanced Training Center, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. S. Ward Casscells said he’s been impressed by the Walter Reed staff’s efforts to ensure Walter Reed is “first class in every way.”

From the top down, beginning with the hospital commander, Army Maj. Gen. (Dr.) Eric B. Schoomaker, the staff pulled together as problems revealed at the facility attracted widespread news coverage, overshadowing the positive work being done, Casscells said. He thanked the “doctors, nurses, corpsmen, medics, technicians, dieticians (and) psychologists who didn't quit when many of us in the military health system got a black eye that we didn't completely deserve.”

Casscells noted that he spoke not only as an as administrator, but also as a former patient.

“With your leadership decisions, you strengthened this hospital,” he said. “You strengthened the whole military health system, you saved a lot of lives, (and) you saved lives of friends of mine. Some of them are in the audience. I've been your patient, and as your grateful patient, I want to thank you.”

Casscells said the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, soon to be built in nearby Bethesda, Md., will continue the tradition of excellence that’s been established at Walter Reed.

“This care will go beyond the bricks and mortar, but will include the best training that money can pay for and that the spirit can provide,” he said.

A top-notch research program at the new facility, he said, will focus on efforts not being pursued in the civilian sector that are critical to U.S. servicemembers. In addition to looking into traumatic brain injury, researchers will explore new, light, durable prosthetics, tissue regeneration methods and devices that provide patients “the control that we need and deserve to be independent, to serve and to lead,” Casscells said.

Casscells extended thanks to Veteran Affairs Secretary James Nicholson, thanking him for the service his department provides servicemembers who go into the VA health-care and benefit systems. “They’re going on to the system which has objectively shown to be the best health care system in the world today,” he told Nicholson. “We're honored to have a partner like you.”

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Dr. S. Ward Casscells

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