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Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center


Personalized health care for Female Veterans

The new expansion of the Ambulatory Care Center created a separate room for female Veterans to increase privacy for this fast growing portion of Veterans served by Charleston VA.

The new expansion of the Ambulatory Care Center created a separate room for female Veterans to increase privacy for this fast growing portion of Veterans served by Charleston VA.

By Erin Curran, Public Affairs Specialist
Monday, January 25, 2016

Women's breast cancer treatment

"Women Veterans are the fastest growing segment of our patients at the VA," said Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Chief of Surgical Service Mark Lockett, M.D.  "The VA is becoming increasingly more sophisticated to accommodate female Veterans and they are surprised at the capabilities we have to manage women's health issues."

In 2015, Charleston VA reached a total of 7,233 female Veterans, bringing the number of women Veterans served to more than one tenth of the total patients at the medical center.

Lockett and his team work hand in hand with community providers to coordinate care for female Veterans to access treatments they need for breast cancer diagnoses.  Physician Assistant Elizabeth Spitz works on Lockett's team and serves a vital role to assist patients with their care--whether a Veteran's appointment is at a VA site of care or out in the community, all appointments flow through her.  She is the point person at Charleston VAMC , each patient's contact, and the surgical team has guaranteed that she is easily accessible through her own direct phone line.  This patient-centered care approach is what drives the type of breast cancer treatment that will be followed. 

"Typically our goal is to treat the cancer in a manner that meets the patient's preferences," said Lockett. "Many of our female patients are expecting that they will be sent out for care, but we can care for them at VA.  If surgery and reconstruction are needed, the majority of those procedures can happen right here."

Expanding women Veteran services

In 2015, the Charleston VAMC added a Chief of Gynecology who is trained in robotic surgery, giving the medical center the ability to perform more in-house female specific surgeries like tubal ligations and closed hysterectomies. 

The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Outpatient Clinics located along the Georgia and South Carolina coast also provide tailored services to provide timely, high quality health care for women Veterans at each stage of their life.  The clinics offer comprehensive health care options to address gender specific needs of women Veterans.   These services include: cancer screening, immunizations, mammograms, prenatal & maternity care, pap smear screening, osteoporosis screening, menopausal support and many other personalized health care needs.

Additional women's health providers have been added to meet the increasing needs of female Veterans.  The Charleston VA now has nine dedicated women's health providers with plans to keep training more.  

New Ambulatory Care Center

On May 11, 2015 Charleston VA opened the new expansion of the Ambulatory Care Center (ACC) which increased the unit from 13 to 21 beds with an additional five bed observation unit to provide pre and post procedure care.  The expansion has special accommodations for the growing number of female Veterans at the medical center.  The ACC has the ability to provide a private room with a bathroom when there is a woman on the unit.  On days with multiple female patients on the unit, staff can designate the entire private room for females.  This flexibility on the unit provides increased comfort for women receiving care at the Charleston VAMC. 

With an ever changing face of who the word "Veteran" describes, Charleston VA is expanding services to meet the unique needs of women Veterans, a group of Veterans they are proud to serve.


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