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NEWS | Sept. 15, 2023

59th Medical Wing marks one-year anniversary of urology ‘first’ at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center

By Tech. Sgt. Tory Patterson 59th Medical Wing Public Affairs

One year ago on an early September morning, a team performed the first endoscopic stone removal surgery at Wilford Hall since its designation as an ambulatory surgical center.

That day, there was a noticeable buzz among the Same-Day Surgery staff as they moved briskly through the halls of the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center to prepare for this historic procedure.

U.S. Air Force Col. (Dr.) Necia Pope, a urologist assigned to the 959th Medical Group at Brooke Army Medical Center at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, explained that on that day, the mission was to treat a patient’s kidney stones.

According to Pope, this type of surgery begins by inserting a small scope into a patient’s ureter to locate the kidney stone. Once located, the team uses a powerful laser to break it up. Lastly, the stone’s fragments are removed.

“For individuals experiencing kidney stones, the pain can be excruciating,” said Pope.

Before September 2022, BAMC was the sole military treatment facility in San Antonio equipped to offer this non-invasive, yet effective, procedure.

However, people like Marcela Smith, 59th Surgical Operations Squadron lead orthopedic technician, and many others worked diligently to determine exactly what was required to expand Wilford Hall’s Urology offerings to include the service.

“We didn’t have the instrumentation, scopes, or the ‘soft goods’ like stents and fibers to perform an endoscopic stone removal surgery,” Smith said. “To solve this, we worked with our counterparts at BAMC to view what they had, and then we worked to bring that here.”

This expansion of urology services required the vision and efforts of countless San Antonio Market teammates.

“Several leaders had the foresight to realize that there were certain procedures being performed at BAMC that are well-suited for an ambulatory surgical center like WHASC, and they really invested in that,” Pope said. “This is a major increase in the availability of care for our patients -- it’s just exciting to have this type of care back here at JBSA-Lackland.”