An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : Features : Display
NEWS | Jan. 30, 2013

Growing to meet your needs: Gastroenterology offers new services to Airmen, families

By Airman 1st Class R. Alex Durbin 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Editor's Note: This story is part of a series highlighting the ongoing changes at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley.

A crisp, white sheet lay across the stretcher, as light shining through the window reflected off of a high-definition monitor and diagrams of the human anatomy.

The roar of activity from the adjacent hallway flowed into the room when the technician held the door open for a patient, as he began to ask a series of preliminary questions.

A few moments later, the doctor entered ready to begin the procedure, at the newly-created Gastroenterology Clinic, inside the surgical subspecialty suite at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley, Langley Air Force Base, Va.

Gastroenterology focuses on the digestive system and diseases affecting the gastrointestinal tract, which includes various organs throughout the body. Gastroenterologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases of this system. Most of the time, these specialists are conducting proactive screening procedures that will preemptively discover early stages of possibly fatal diagnoses. These endoscopy procedures are also used to address unusual cases of abdominal pain when the diagnosis is unclear.

"Gastroenterology is a service that is vital in proactively identifying potentially fatal diagnoses, such as colorectal cancer," said Col. Brian Casleton, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron commander. "Expanding our services gives our patients more opportunities to resolve their health concerns in one place."

This expansion comes at an opportune time. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources, 60 to 70 million people are affected by all digestive diseases, and account for 13.5 million hospitalizations yearly.

"Gastroenterology is a highly demanded and utilized medical subspecialty," said Casleton. "By having the service within our hospital, we provide a higher level of care and intervention to our patients."

The clinic is a fairly new service at the hospital and offers colonoscopies, endoscopic procedures and therapeutic techniques. The office boasts two gastroenterologists, two endoscopic suites and two clinical examination rooms, while removing the necessity for patients to travel to gastroenterologists in the surrounding area.

"The new clinic offers an efficient and organized area to treat patients," said Sherry M. Morgan, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron gastroenterology technician. "It is a one-stop-shop for patients to receive treatment in a comfortable, convenient suite."

While eliminating the patients' need to travel for care, the clinic stresses the importance of offering the same quality care as any similar service in the area. Each suite is outfitted with cutting-edge laparoscopic equipment and high definition monitors that will help the gastroenterologist find and prevent diseases earlier, and with greater ease. The suite is constantly upgrading and improving new services.

"By having a dedicated space we can more efficiently handle gastroenterology cases," said Casleton. "In making this commitment, we dramatically increased our efficiency and effectiveness."

The new space and equipment allows the clinic to provide between 120 and 140 procedures a month, increasing production by 80 percent.

Not only does the new multispecialty health suite allow the gastroenterologists to nearly double their patient visits, it allows them to work closely with other specialties that deal with their patients.

"Increasing collaboration between specialties by having the multiple services physically co-located and integrated ultimately increases patient safety by decreasing the potential for missed or delayed communication," said Casleton. "Our goal is transparent, comprehensive care for our patients."

Gastroenterologists work closely with general surgeons who specialize in gastroenterological and proctology surgery, making the need for communication key.

"Working closely with other clinics like general surgery and family practice is very helpful," said Dr. [Lt. Col.] Joseph Gallagher, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron gastroenterologist. "The communication allows a seamless transition in care, and ultimately benefits the patient."

According to Gallagher, improving patient care is not just his mission, but a duty to his fellow Service members and their loved ones.

"We are constantly looking for new and better ways to support our Airmen," said Gallagher. "This clinic is just another way we can take care of our military family."