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NEWS | Dec. 18, 2012

Growing to meet your needs: 633rd SGCS on the cutting edge

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

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

The room was alive with movement as doctors, dressed in scrubs and white coats, rushed to meet with patients in-between transcribing notes from recent appointments. The sound of keyboards clicking and papers shuffling filled the room as two doctors leaned over their desks to discuss a case file.

The collaborative conversation ended abruptly as the two realized the time and rushed off to appointments in their respective clinics.

This lively scene is a typical day at the newly opened multiservice clinic at U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley, Langley Air Force Base, Va. In an effort to streamline and centralize patient care, the multispecialty clinic opened Nov. 17., 2012, boasting Orthopedic, Otolaryngology, Oral Surgery, Urology, Gastroenterology, Cardiology and General Surgery services in one area.

The combined clinic allows Langley hospital health professionals in various specialties to consult each other on the spot to find the best treatments for their patients, and share different approaches to treat illnesses.

"As a general surgeon, I have a great amount of knowledge about surgical procedures and medicine," said Dr. [U.S. Air Force Maj.] Gary Weissenfluh, 633rd Surgical Operations Squadron, general surgeon. "Even with all of that knowledge, it is invaluable to have different specialists within an arm's reach to provide insight to my cases."

Not only does the integrated clinic allow the health professionals to communicate in a more effective and efficient manner, it offers the patients the unique ability to receive multidisciplinary care in a patient-centric environment, said Col. Claude Hawkins, 633rd Surgical Operations Squadron commander.

"The multidisciplinary clinic provides an increase in efficiency for the staff and a major improvement for patients," he said.

As one of the services offered at the multiservice clinic, the General Surgery Clinic provides specialized care by surgeons trained at premier medical schools throughout the country. Four general surgeons stand ready to offer a wide range of services at any time, day or night.

The clinic specializes in repairing internal organs, such as the esophagus, stomach, small bowel, colon, liver, pancreas, gallbladder and the thyroid gland. Additionally, Langley surgeons are certified to perform laparoscopic surgery, a relatively new minimal-access technique using cameras and instruments inserted through small incisions.

These smaller incisions benefit patients by ultimately reducing pain, resulting in less post-operative scarring and quicker recovery time, allowing them to return to everyday life faster than conventional surgery, said Weissenfluh.

Weissenfluh and the other surgeons at the hospital devote their knowledge to providing high-quality care and commitment for Joint Base Langley-Eustis personnel and their families, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Not only are the surgeons highly skilled, they also practice in cutting-edge facilities with the best equipment available. U.S. Air Force Hospital Langley is constantly looking for new, more efficient means to treat patients, and facilitates 115,000 surgical-outpatient visits and more than 2,200 procedures, annually.

"As doctors we have a responsibility to treat our patients to the best of our abilities," said Weissenfluh. "This expansion has already allowed Langley doctors to work together to provide a higher level of care than ever before."

Even with the high volume of procedures, the clinic focuses on a personal and patient-centered approach to treat each case. This includes timely and thorough initial evaluations leading to surgical treatment from the beginning to the end of treatment. Patient care is the top priority for all surgeons in the clinic, said Dr. [Capt.] Kelley Meehan, 633rd SGCS general surgeon.

"The health professionals are here to take care of the patients," she said. "We are willing to make changes for the better."

The surgical squadron started expanding in 2008 with the design and construction of five new operating rooms and a 12-bed same-day surgery recovery suite that were completed in 2010. The state-of-the-art rooms increased the capacity for surgeries, creating an efficient space for patients to undergo outpatient surgeries.

"The unit was created to offer a one-stop shop for patients.The expansion of the Langley hospital has been a dynamic process," said Hawkins. "The Air Force Medical Service has invested resources to the hospital so we can provide a full range of services to the beneficiaries in this area."