Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Monthly Report from the Director
Scott R. Isaacks, FACHE
Medical Center Director
At the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, our employees each have a personal mission to provide high-quality care and service to every Veteran who walks through the doors of our hospital and outpatient clinics. In previous monthly messages, I have talked about our quality of care as evidenced by our continued outstanding performance metrics. This month, I want to share with you another of our excellent programs, often unseen, that has a tremendous impact on the health care of Veterans and all Americans across this great country…research. We strive to improve each day to ensure that our Veterans are receiving the best care anywhere – right here at their VA.
One crucial way that we accomplish this continuous advancement is through our highly active VA research program. To date, VA researchers have won three Nobel Prizes and seven Lasker Awards, which are given annually to people in the United States who have made major contributions to medical science or who have performed public service on behalf of medicine. Studies conducted by researchers throughout the VA system have had an incredible impact on care options available to our Veterans. The knowledge obtained through these federal studies permeates into the health care environment at all levels and touches the lives of nearly every U.S. citizen who receives medical treatment. This makes VA research vitally important in the field.
Here in Charleston, our primary investigators partner with top-minds from MUSC to advance medical treatments for our Veterans and for the community at large. Many of the studies take place at our shared Thurmond-Gazes Building, a state-of-the-art research facility that is the only one of its kind in the U.S. Additionally, late last year, we opened our Mental Health Research Building, a 16,000 square foot facility dedicated to discovering the most effective treatment methods for mental health conditions that may affect the 62,000 Veterans we serve. The $9.9 million addition to our campus includes five wet labs, 27 exam rooms and three group rooms.
The Charleston VAMC has more than 100 principal investigators, including 24 mental health researchers, who conduct studies in such areas as telemental health, pharmacogenomics, and repeated transcranial magnetic stimulation and its effectiveness in treating depression and chronic pain. Other studies include clinical research into post-traumatic stress disorder, hypertension and aging; health services research in rural health and health disparities through our Health Equity and Rural Outreach Innovation Center; rehabilitation research in stroke injury through MUSC’s jointly utilized Human Performance Lab and so many more. The Ralph H. Johnson VA research arm receives approximately $8 million in VA funding and an additional $12 million in non-VA funding to continue its investigations into a myriad of diseases and conditions that effect our Veteran population. I am consistently amazed at the new information that these studies unearth and I am hopeful for the promise of ever-improving health care options for not only our Veterans, but for all members of our community and people around the nation.
New Associate Director
Ms. Pamela Crowell joined the Charleston VAMC in July 2015 as our new Associate Director. She came to Charleston from the New Mexico VA Health Care System where she has served as Associate Director since 2013. Prior to her role as Associate Director, she served as Assistant Director and Chief of Performance Improvement at New Mexico VA Health Care System. Pamela is a graduate of the 2009 Veterans Health Administration Executive Career Field Graduate Program and holds a Bachelor of Science from Northern State University and a Masters of Public Administration from the University of South Dakota. She is married and has two children. Her oldest son is active duty Army, serving in the 82nd Airborne as a paratrooper. We are so happy to have her on our team and look forward to working with her in service to you, our Veterans.
New Appointment Reminder Postcards
In an effort to reduce paper waste and to save money in our correspondence with our Veteran patients, the Charleston VAMC is currently in the process of switching from appointment letters to appointment reminder postcards. These cards will be mailed directly to you, in the same way that the current letters are, and will include pertinent appointment information, maps to the facility, and specialized instructions for your visit. As we transition to this new system, please ensure that you do not accidently throw away your appointment reminder card. These cards are the size of typical travel postcard and have tear tabs on the sides to ensure that your medical information remains secure and private. This initiative is just one of the many ways that we seek to improve and serve you better at your Charleston VA.
Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record
The Virtual Lifetime Electronic Record (VLER) Health Program allows VA, non-VA health care providers, and Veterans to securely share certain health information from a Veteran’s health record electronically. As our population of Veteran patients continues to grow at a record pace, we have been more actively using the Veterans Choice program to provide access to community care when it is necessary. This makes VLER even more critical for those patients who are seen by doctors both at their VA and in the community, as it helps better coordinate and improve the overall quality of care.
Participation is voluntary and free and I highly encourage each of you to opt in to the program. Veterans wishing to connect their docs and share their health record with selected private health care providers must first sign a VA Form 10-0485 authorization form, which is available online at www.va.gov/VLER. The form may also be completed and printed, and then faxed, mailed, or hand carried to the Charleston VAMC Release of Information (ROI) Office. For additional information visit: www.va.gov/VLER or call 1-877-771-VLER. The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center Release of Information Office can be reached at 843-789-7243.
Thank you for entrusting us with your health care. It is my sincere hope that we can provide you with compassionate care and excellent customer service, whether you are seen here at the facility or at a community doctor.